The Role Of Aerial Application

Aerial Application

For decades aerial application has been a staple in many parts of the U.S., from forests in the West to pastures in the Plains to rice fields in the South. On limited occasions aerial operators have been called to the Midwest as to serve as “firemen,� extinguishing unexpected insect outbreaks such as spider mites.

But a number of factors have fostered explosive growth in the aerial segment these past few years. The advent of new corn fungicides designed to be applied at tassel has taken aerial work to a new level, particularly in the Midwest. Plus, advances in flight technology that allow for more timely, efficient, and effective crop protection product applications have made aerial a valuable addition to – and in some cases alternative to – ground approaches.

In fact, fans such as Craig Bair, aerial SSRE manager at Wilbur-Ellis Co., could list several advantages of aerial, including the ability to treat more acres per day than ground rigs; the ability to make extensive applications in busy, narrow treatment windows, especially if weather/soil conditions are unfavorable; the absence of crop damage; and the lack of soil compaction.

Specific to corn, he says: Research has shown that fungicide applications made to corn at the VT stage by air are more effective because the product is distributed to the upper half of the plant where it’s needed for better ear development.

Corn Demands, Aircraft Evolve

CropLife reported on the corn phenom four years ago, as retailers scrambled to secure pilots to treat corn with the new strobilurin fungicides. This market has only grown since then. The products provide strong protection against disease, but they also have proved to generate a “plant health� benefit that give yields a decided bump.

That boost has now been widely documented, though exact figures may vary by region and disease pressure. Dr. Scott Bretthauer, pesticide safety extension specialist with the University of Illinois, conducted a study that recorded a yield increase of 18.6 bushels per acre with an aerial application of fungicides. BASF’s latest product HeadlineAMP, for instance, is showing average increases of 12.8 bushels, reports Dr. Gary Fellows, tech service fungicide and seed treatment. Ag retailer Mike Carrell at Ceres LLP, Wingate, IN, has customers adding 7-10 bushels per acre. Bottom line: Growers have increasingly become believers in these products and are requesting aerial service, often through their retailers.

Advances in aircraft have also fueled aerial application popularity. “For all intents and purposes, planes are twice as big as they were,� says Tony Goede, aerial manager with BASF. The most common planes in use today are powered by a turbine engine, cut huge swaths across fields, and carry 400 to 500 gallons of product. In fact, Air Tractor Inc. has a 1000-gallon plane in development that, though targeted for firefighting, may be popular with its aerial application customers who currently own the company’s 800-gallon aircraft.

The move to these larger turbine planes has not only added power for longer hours and bigger jobs, the craft have proven to be more reliable and need less maintenance than the previously used piston planes, says Jim Hirsch, president of Air Tractor.

“By moving into one or two larger aircraft instead of several smaller ones, operators are able to become more efficient and reduce overhead,� says Hirsch. Some pilots we talked with still use the smaller Cessna-type planes that have capacities of 160 gallons. They’re still plenty effective, particularly for manuevering in smaller fields.

In addition to turbine technology, planes now offer more advanced boom construction and placement, nozzle design, and flow controls. These upgrades make for more accurate applications, but the new flow controls in particular mean that pilots don’t need to work as hard in the airplane to keep their speed constant across the field, says Steve Benoit, owner of Benoit Aerial Spraying, Kankakee, IL.

As in ground work, GPS has been a great boon for aerial application, with 99% of pilots now using it for navigation, according to National Agricultural Aviation Association’s (NAAA) 2012 survey.

The past few years have also brought a host of advances in mapping software, the most notable being the ability to tie orders to georeferenced fields. Operators can create job maps in their offices more easily, then download them onto memory sticks for pilots to load in the computer in the cockpit. Benoit appreciates the ability to now receive these application jobs via e-mail – jobs that fertilizer dealers he partners with have booked with growers.

One powerful new resource is AgSync, a web-based Internet hub that many Midwest retailers and aerial firms now use for order management. After securing a job order the company transmits it, connecting GPS systems on planes with computers at the office; on the backside of an application, the system creates as-applied maps. Goede reports that more than 600 retail locations are utilizing the service, with more than 40 aerial applicators linked in.

Experts we spoke with see a continuing bright future for aerial in part because this is a good time for agriculture products globally. Andrew Moore, executive director of NAAA, points out that growing populations and middle classes are demanding meat daily, with the accompanying demand for corn. He says growers are more likely to use yield aids such as corn fungicides, applied by air, when commodity prices are up.

In addition, chemical manufacturers are developing ways to keep the aerial market intact and the growth consistent, says Goede. They continue to come out with new fungicides and more product labels that include aerial directions. Plus, new herbicides are coming available for aerial application, particularly in Western states.

Leave a Reply

One comment on “The Role Of Aerial Application

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
Aerial ApplicationA Snapshot Of Aerial Application
September 1, 2012
To understand how aerial application is viewed by the marketplace, CropLife conducted a survey of its readers, which produced some interesting results. Read More
Aerial application nozzles at work.
Aerial ApplicationAerial Applicators Can Join Resistance Fight
September 1, 2012
Aerial application, when used in a systematic approach to crop protection, can deliver prompt, accurate and efficient control of pests and resistant weed species. Read More
Aerial ApplicationDecision Time: Buy The Planes Or Partner With Pilots
September 1, 2012
In light of the many demands of owning and operating planes, most ag retailers advocate contracting with a local aerial business for aerial application services. Read More
Trending Articles
Young Corn Plants
Crop NutritionStill Hunting Yields
April 1, 2017
There’s no denying it — the agricultural marketplace today is undergoing a fundamental shift in fortunes. Not too many years Read More
Nutrients for Life Foundation Teacher
FertilizerNutrients For Life Foundation Celebrates 10 Years Teaching Fertilizer Education
March 23, 2017
Those in agriculture know fertilizer is a vital ingredient to grow strong, productive crops. In fact, fertilizer is responsible for Read More
AdjuvantsA New Weed-Control Era Begins: But First, One Last Obstacle
March 4, 2017
There is trepidation, there is reluctance, and there is excitement. Ag retailers feel it all about the new dicamba and Read More
LIFT Academy video screenshot
Crop InputsLIFT Agriculture Academy: A Q&A With West Central Distribution’s Dean Hendrickson
March 1, 2017
West Central Distribution recently launched its LIFT Agriculture Academy, a new, premiere training and professional development resource for West Central’s ag Read More
Farmer and aptop
Matt Hopkins10 Warning Signs Your Website Is Grossly Outdated
February 8, 2017
Your Website is often a visitor’s first impression of your ag retail business. A positive first impression can set the Read More
AgriSync
Matt Hopkins17 Agriculture Apps That Will Help You Farm Smarter In 2017
December 9, 2016
Ag professionals are working smarter, not harder, than ever before. Smart farming technologies have enabled them to reduce costs, maximize Read More
Latest News
ManagementAn Inside Look at Award Winning Ag Retailer Gar Tooteli…
April 20, 2017
CropLife Editor Eric Sfiligoj discusses An Inside Look at Award Winning Ag Retailer Gar Tootelian Read More
Students Soybean Field
Industry NewsMACA Announces 2017 Young Leader Scholarship Recipients
April 19, 2017
The Mid America CropLife Association (MACA) Board of Directors selected 11 college students to receive the MACA Young Leader Scholarship Read More
Growmark FS Outlet
SoftwareKnoa Software Solution Helps GROWMARK Boost System Perf…
April 19, 2017
Knoa Software, a leading provider of user experience management (UEM) software, has announced that GROWMARK, Inc., a regional agricultural cooperative Read More
Crop InputsFBN Publishes ‘Voice of the Farmer’ Agricul…
April 17, 2017
Farmer’s Business Network (FBN) released today its “The Voice of the Farmer”, which the company is describing as “a special Read More
ManagementTalking Responsible Ag
April 13, 2017
CropLife Editor Eric Sfiligoj discusses the Responsible Ag program with director Bill Qualls. Read More
Crop InputsFlying Under the Radar No More, FMC Goes Big
April 13, 2017
Describing FMC as “under the radar,” admittedly, is probably a stretch. But in a snap of the fingers, FMC upped Read More
Crop InputsWhat do Roundup and Mickey Mouse Have in Common? Califo…
April 13, 2017
(SOURCE: East Valley Times) Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto Co.’s Roundup and many other weed killers, is being added Read More
Syngenta headquarters in Basel, Switzerland
Crop InputsSource: ChemChina to Divest Assets to Adama Following S…
April 11, 2017
China National Chemical Corp. plans to redistribute agrochemical assets to its Adama unit after the $43 billion takeover of Syngenta Read More
Farming drone air
Eric SfiligojThe Interest in UAVs for Agriculture Grows
April 10, 2017
At times, it seems as if experts have been predicting “big things” for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for several years Read More
OpinionOpinion: Taking On The Farmers Business Network
April 8, 2017
Well, another round of venture capital funding has come to Farmers Business Network (FBN), followed up with the obligatory feature Read More
Drone
EquipmentFarming Drones: The Future Of Agriculture?
April 7, 2017
Chances are, you already know drones are amazing. After all, this is something DroneLife readers just understand. But if you’re Read More
ManagementFMC-DuPont, Crop Plantings, and UAV Updates
April 6, 2017
Editors Eric Sfiligoj and Jackie Pucci discuss the purchase agreement between DuPont and FMC, the 2017 crop acreage mix and Read More
Falcon soil sampler
EquipmentSerious Soil Sampling Rigs
April 6, 2017
The industry has seen an increase in automation in sampling equipment, and consultants now often pull cores with an automated Read More
Iowa waterways
FertilizerDow AgroSciences Recognizes Ag Retailers’ Role in Prote…
April 6, 2017
The state of Iowa and its agriculture community have worked for decades to preserve soil health, protect water quality and Read More
Farmer Scouting Weeds in Soybean Field
EquipmentSoil, Scouting Programs Continue To Gain Value
April 5, 2017
How much growers and their retailers utilize soil testing and scouting varies greatly. But they should step up their game Read More
Forbes Mixing Bowl NYC
Precision Ag6 Key Takeaways from Forbes Mixing Bowl NYC
April 5, 2017
Advisory investment group The Mixing Bowl teamed up with Forbes for its New York-based event this year to discuss technology’s Read More
Pam Marrone
Crop InputsQ&A With Pam Marrone On The World’s First All-Biolo…
April 4, 2017
Marrone Bio Innovations Inc. and Israel-based Ground­work BioAg in February announced successful field trials of the world’s first all-biological comprehensive Read More
Corn soil
Crop NutritionBiostimulants Clamor For A Piece Of The Row Crop Market
April 3, 2017
The question these days isn’t who is venturing into biostimulants — it’s who isn’t. Or more to the point: The Read More