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
PrecisionAg Vision Conference
Precision AgPrecisionAg® Vision Conference: Focused on the Future
June 13, 2017
PrecisionAg® is pleased to announce the return of its PrecisionAg Vision Conference, October 10-12, 2017. Based on overwhelmingly positive response Read More
Redbanded-stinkbug-on-soybean-Photo-credit-Thomas-County-Ag
Crop InputsExperts: Mild Winter, Early Planting Will Increase Soybean Insect Threat
June 12, 2017
Higher than average temperatures this past winter affected much of the nation, especially the South and Midwest. The National Centers Read More
Eric SfiligojMonsanto ‘Picks Its Battles’ by Nixing Deere Deal
May 23, 2017
Having been in the trade journalism game since the mid-1980s, I remember several watershed moments during my career. One of Read More
Migrant farm workers
LegislationTrump: Immigration Crackdown Won’t Impact U.S. Agriculture
May 16, 2017
President Donald Trump said he would seek to keep his tough immigration enforcement policies from harming the U.S. farm industry Read More
AGCO Ratliff featured
Eric SfiligojRemembering Robert Ratliff
May 15, 2017
With all the fast-paced happenings in agriculture this spring, with multiple mergers in the works and planting season in full Read More
Case sprayer nozzle closeup
EquipmentSpray Application: A Nozzle Renaissance
May 2, 2017
If you had asked four-decade ag veteran Mark Bartel, President of Wilger Inc., just a few years ago what lay Read More
Latest News
ManagementDow Field Day and More Cooperative Consolidation
June 28, 2017
CropLife Editor discusses his recent attendance at the Dow AgroSciences Field Day in Indiana and shares news on another pair Read More
Young Corn Plants
Eric SfiligojLaunching New Seed Traits: Wait on China . . . Or Else!
June 26, 2017
In life, no one likes the waiting game. In agriculture, however, playing the waiting game is very important – especially Read More
Monsanto sign
Crop InputsMonsanto Speaks on Dicamba Issues in Arkansas
June 26, 2017
Monsanto’s Chief Technology Officer, Robb Fraley, issued the following statement following the Arkansas State Plant Board’s proposal to ban dicamba, Read More
Corn Field
Seed/BiotechCorn Insect Bt Technologies Offer Cost-effective, Proac…
June 26, 2017
When farm economics are challenging, farmers look for ways to bolster profit margins, including reducing input costs. Some may think Read More
Crop InputsArkansas Plant Board Votes to Ban Dicamba — Now W…
June 23, 2017
The Arkansas State Plant Board has voted to pass a proposed emergency rule to ban the use of in-crop dicamba, Read More
Engenia soybeans
Crop InputsBASF: ‘Closely Monitoring’ Dicamba Situatio…
June 22, 2017
BASF, whose Engenia herbicide is the target of more than 200 drift complaints in Arkansas, emailed the following statement to Read More
ManagementConsolidation Update
June 22, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss progress on manufacturer consolidation, and another big move for Midwest cooperative Central Valley Read More
Palmer pigweed seedhead in cotton
Crop InputsThreat of Dicamba Ban Looms in Arkansas
June 22, 2017
The Arkansas State Plant Board has rejected a proposed ban on the use of dicamba herbicide, but a procedural error Read More
Potash Agrium
Crop InputsAgrium-PotashCorp to become Nutrien upon Merger Complet…
June 21, 2017
Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Inc. and Agrium Inc. have announced today that once the anticipated merger transaction closes, the new Read More
Crop InputsMidwestern BioAg Hosts TerraNu Fertilizer Plant Opening…
June 20, 2017
Last Friday, Midwestern BioAg was joined by over 80 local farmers, media and staff to celebrate the grand opening of Read More
Soybean Field
Industry NewsAligned Ag Distributors Names New President
June 19, 2017
Aligned Ag Distributors LLC announced this morning the appointment of Mary Tolke to the position of President/CEO, effective July 1. Read More
ManagementPlotting Corn, AGCO/Asmark’s Applicator Training Center…
June 15, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about their recent visits to Columbus, OH, and Bloomington, IL, along with an Read More
Seed/BiotechDow AgroSciences Announces Launch of Enlist Corn for 20…
June 14, 2017
Enlist corn will be commercially available in the U.S. for the 2018 growing season. Dow AgroSciences announced the launch today Read More
ASMARK AGCO Applicator Training Center
EmployeesAsmark, AGCO Open Training Center for Beginning Applica…
June 13, 2017
AGCO Corp. and the Asmark Institute have opened a new Applicator Training Center, created in a collaboration between the two Read More
Power to Do More Contest Winners
HerbicidesDow AgroSciences Announces Three Winners in Power to Do…
June 13, 2017
Thousands of votes have been cast and three farmers have been awarded the power to do more with a $10,000 Read More
Frogeye leaf spot
FungicidesStrobilurin-resistant Frogeye Leaf Spot Threat Looms wi…
June 13, 2017
Heavy spring rainfall throughout the South and Midwest delayed planting and created the perfect environment for diseases like frogeye leaf Read More
PrecisionAg Vision Conference
Precision AgPrecisionAg® Vision Conference: Focused on the Future
June 13, 2017
PrecisionAg® is pleased to announce the return of its PrecisionAg Vision Conference, October 10-12, 2017. Based on overwhelmingly positive response Read More
CHS St. Paul, MN fertilizer terminal
LegislationICGA Praises President Trump’s Remarks on Waterwa…
June 12, 2017
Illinois Corn Growers Association President Justin Durdan, a farmer from Utica, issued the following statement regarding President Donald Trump’s comments Read More