A Snapshot Of Aerial Application

Aerial Application Plane, Air Tractor

This summer, CropLife editors sent out a brief survey to our enewsletter readers to better understand the impact aerial application is having on ag retailers, especially in light of this market’s substantial growth in the last five years. While not all 126 respondents answered all 10 questions, they still provided solid information for us to work with. We thank the owners and managers who took the time to share their input. We received almost equal responses between cooperatives and independent dealerships, with a number of returns coming from firms that are a part of a national or regional chain of retailers (not coops).

The responses only highlight the importance of aerial work, with fully 88% of companies saying they used the services of an aerial application professional in the last two years.

What were the operators’ assignments? Fungicides, baby! Preventive fungicide application on corn was number one with 77% of the retailers saying they did this work for customers. Fifty-four percent made preventive fungicide application on soybeans.

But just over half (52%) came in with rescue applications of insecticides on corn and/or soybeans, proving this is still a vital need, even with the widespread use of genetically engineered crops.

Apart from the buzz about fungicides, aerial is also important in herbicide application as well, with 45% of dealers saying they used it on a variety of crops. Then, too, ag airplanes put down a considerable amount of fertilizer — 41% of companies told us they did this service for growers, a good portion perhaps going on rice fields in the South.

In our discussions with aerial experts and pilots for this report, one thing that frustrated operators was how retailers and growers don’t plan well enough for applications. Tony Goede, aerial manager at BASF Corp., estimates a whopping 70% of work is “last minute,” scheduled within a week or two of the need. Retailers in our survey (82%) said they do plan as much as possible but rely on rescue applications as well. Almost 10% admitted they “rarely” plan aerial work and count more on rescues. In fact, 8% said they only use aerial services for rescue applications.

Survey respondents had strikingly positive words about the quality of service they’ve received from aerial professionals. An impressive 84% say they felt the work was “very good” or “exceptional.” The applications were deemed “acceptable” by 12%, and “fair” by 4%. It is a testament to aerial professionals that none of the retailers surveyed rated their work “not acceptable.”

Power Of The Planes

While ag aircraft have been evolving into powerful, cutting-edge machines over the past several years, the majority of our surveyed retailers did not seem too concerned about what kind of planes aerial applicators use. When asked if the aircraft type used influences the decision to work with an aerial company, 74% said no. The plane utilized was a deciding factor for 26% of retailers.

Many of today’s operators are flying Air Tractor and Thrush aircraft with turbine engines that can cover large stretches of fields quickly — an imperative as treated acreage continue to grow. But single and double piston planes from companies such as Cessna and Pawnee continue to service the industry as well.

A portion of our aerial report this month focuses on whether retailers should contract with an aerial firm or purchase their own planes. Of those we surveyed, 81% do not have an in-house aerial application service, while 19% do.

Our report will show the commitment to building your own aerial segment is absolutely huge. Our surveyed retailers understand that: 61% of them saying they have “no plans” to even consider the move. Four percent did consider the possibility, but decided not to move ahead.

But, alas, the business and scheduling control promised by having your own planes is enticing. Just over 3% of retailers responding said they are seriously considering the investment; 17% have discussed the possibility, and 15% said they have not considered an in-house aerial segment yet, but “may in the future.”

Speaking Out

We posed one open-ended question to our surveyed readers: “In a few words, what is the biggest challenge you deal with in working with an aerial application professional?” The number one response was timeliness, followed by reliability/dependability, then by accuracy. Retailers obviously want the job done promptly by committed, trained applicators. We will see in this report how pinpointing grower customers’ needs as much as possible in the fall and winter would be a real help in getting work done on time.

The next most important traits our respondents look for in pilots are professionalism and honesty. The pilots we talked with are committed to both. For survey respondents, professionalism is evidenced in part by being “clean and neat (that way I know he cares)” and “not a showman” or not “crazy.” Retailers also valued a partnering relationship with aerial applicators that are “transparent, easy to do business with,” and offer “good communication.” As we will see, building relationships via regular and honest communication goes far in getting jobs done right.

Perhaps surprisingly, experience and equipment were not widely mentioned as challenges for respondents — though accuracy could certainly be a sign of experience. It seems retailers trust the skills and planes most of today’s pilots possess, but the aerial operators we interviewed highly encouraged retailers to do research on both.

Leave a Reply

Aerial Application Stories

Aerial ApplicationAerial Application Special Report – Sponsored by Air Tractor
September 1, 2012
As the 2012 season winds down in the United States, the trend I’ve seen in previous years continues...more and more growers are choosing aerial application to control diseases and pests. Read More

Trending Articles

EquipmentAdvance Your Technology IQ At MAGIE
August 13, 2014
The Midwest AG Industries Exposition (August 20-21) is the place you need to be to see, study and evaluate how new advances in the equipment, operations, crop protection and fertility sectors can help your business prosper. Read More
HerbicidesScouting Key To Next Season’s Soybean Herbicide Program
August 12, 2014
When growing soybeans, growers need to think ahead to stay one step ahead of weeds. That means examining weed threats and evaluating which herbicides work best. Read More
StewardshipMichigan Agriculture Leaders On Toledo Water Ban: We Want To Be Part Of The Conversation
August 8, 2014
Leaders of Michigan agricultural organizations said Thursday that the government should not have a “knee-jerk reaction” based on last weekend’s water ban in Toledo due to fertilizer run-off in Lake Erie. Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Acquires Lemon Ag Services
August 4, 2014
The acquisition of Lemon Ag fits BRANDT’s aggressive corporate strategy of providing superior agronomic advice and services for customers in central Illinois. Read More
Eric SfiligojThe Resurgence Of Crop Protection
August 4, 2014
Plenty of new offerings over the next few years should see a rebirth for the crop protection products category in terms of market share. Read More
LegislationUSDA Implements Key Farm Bill Crop Insurance Provision
July 30, 2014
The new Supplemental Coverage Option, available through the federal crop insurance program and set to begin with the 2015 crop year, is designed to help protect producers from yield and market volatility. Read More

Latest News

CropLife 100GROWMARK CEO To Retire
August 22, 2014
GROWMARK chief executive officer Jeff Solberg has announced his retirement effective September 15, 2014. Read More
InsecticidesDuPont’s Prevathon Approved For Dry Beans
August 22, 2014
DuPont Prevathon insect control powered by Rynaxypyr has received EPA registration for foliar use on dry bean crops, including dried shelled peas and beans. Read More
ManagementNCGA DuPont New Leaders Program Enters Sophmore Season
August 20, 2014
The National Corn Growers Association and DuPont are pleased to announce the second year of the NCGA DuPont New Leaders Program. Read More
FungicidesVerdesian Links Up With Mitsui, Hokusan
August 20, 2014
Mitsui Chemicals Agro, Inc., and Hokusan Co., announced the signing of an exclusive licensing agreement allowing Verdesian Life Sciences global access to its patented technology for suppressing mycotoxin contamination in wheat and barley. Read More
SprayersUniversity Of Illinois Introduces New Spray App
August 18, 2014
University of Illinois Extension has released a new smartphone app for making sprayer-related calculations. Pesticide Spray Calculator, or Spray Calc, Read More
Crop InputsSyngenta Names New Manager Of Federal Government Relati…
August 18, 2014
Laura Wood Peterson has joined Syngenta as manager of federal government relations, based in Washington, DC. Read More
ManagementExpert To Discuss Farmland Value, Rent At Farm Science …
August 18, 2014
While cropland values in Ohio increased in the past two years, they have remained flat in 2014, declining in some cases, according to an Ohio State University agricultural economist. Read More
EquipmentDeere Announces Factory Layoffs
August 18, 2014
Deere & Co. has announced it will reduce the size of its manufacturing workforce at some agricultural equipment factories in response to current market demand for its products. Read More
HerbicidesNew DuPont Afforia Herbicide Gives Crops A Clean Start
August 18, 2014
DuPont Afforia is a preplant herbicide for soybeans and other field crops that provides excellent burndown and residual control of many challenging weeds, such as marestail and waterhemp. Read More
Equipment21 Products Showcased At MAGIE 2014
August 18, 2014
The annual Midwest AG Industries Exposition is upon us. Here is CropLife IRON's look at some of the products visitors can expect to see at this week's event. Read More
EquipmentAGCO Seeks Nominations For 2014 Operator Of The Year
August 15, 2014
Ag retailers throughout the U.S. and Canada are encouraged to nominate their best applicators. Read More
EquipmentAdvance Your Technology IQ At MAGIE
August 13, 2014
The Midwest AG Industries Exposition (August 20-21) is the place you need to be to see, study and evaluate how new advances in the equipment, operations, crop protection and fertility sectors can help your business prosper. Read More
ManagementCropLife’s Buyers’ Guide Issue Now Availabl…
August 13, 2014
One of our most read issues of the year — the August Buyers' Guide — is ready to download on the iPad. This popular issue features equipment for "In The Field," "At The Plant" and "In The Office." Read More
WebinarsWebinars On Demand
August 13, 2014
Register for one of our upcoming Webinars or access our archive of past Webinars to view recordings of presentations that may be of interest to you. Read More
HerbicidesBASF: Fall Burndown Benefits Go Beyond Weed Control
August 12, 2014
While unpredictable weather may delay application timing of spring herbicides, more growers are adding a burndown application in the fall Read More
HerbicidesScouting Key To Next Season’s Soybean Herbicide P…
August 12, 2014
When growing soybeans, growers need to think ahead to stay one step ahead of weeds. That means examining weed threats and evaluating which herbicides work best. Read More
StewardshipNitrogen Efficiency Supports Environmental Stewardship
August 12, 2014
As growers prepare for another harvest, it’s important to consider how nitrogen stabilization not only supports healthy plant growth but also fosters environmental stewardship. Read More
Seed/BiotechMycogen Seeds Introduces 19 New Corn Hybrids For 2015
August 12, 2014
Many of the new hybrids feature Mycogen's SmartStax Refuge Advanced technology for maximum protection of the genetic potential and planting convenience. Read More