The role of the custom applicator cannot be underestimated. They help farmers cover millions of acres every year, but there's a solid number of farmers who do their own spraying. Some do all of it, the rest supplement the custom work. If you're in the do-it-yourself camp, before spring gets going, you may want to consider what you need to do to make sure your sprayer is ready.
That's especially true if you plan on using the new-fangled, legacy based, crop protection products labeled for market. These new products have been formulated for lower drift and volatility, but the EPA has also tacked on a fair share of new requirements from buffers near susceptible crops to your choice of spray nozzle.
Perhaps, however, the first step is to look at your sprayer setup to determine what needs replacing. While some of you reading this may pooh-pooh the idea of this issue, I've heard too many stories about sprayers with nozzles that haven't been changed in years. Sure, it's an expense, but so is improper application of a precision crop protection product.
Sprayer calibration is an important task and one that most producers take on each spring ahead of the season. With the availability of new tools like new formulations of dicamba and 2,4-D that just becomes more important. BASF, which produces Engenia, a new formulation of dicamba, recently announced that its On Target Application Academy has gone on line. It's a stewardship designed to help you make sure what you put in the tank gets right where you want it sprayed.
Bob Wolf, owner, Wolf Consulting & Research LLC is an OTAA trainer and helped develop the program. When BASF announced the new online version of the program they quoted him noting that "with easy-to-access herbicide application tips, growers and applicators can improve on-target applications."
Right pressure, right tip, right speed, this spraying business has a lot of variables. Making it to just one more meeting for a training session can be a challenge, but having this information online can be valuable. It's available when you need it, or you can have others in your operation go through the program to improve their spraying skills.
Onlline education is a great tool for farmers because you're distant from a lot of training facilities, yet equipment and technology keeps getting more complicated. With online tools you can improve your knowledge, and with the OTAA likely boost your precision application.
Of course these new herbicides are aiming to help you beat weed resistance. This is an issue that will not go away. Since the first resistant weed was discovered more than 60 years ago farmers have been dealing with the problem. The challenge is that using iron to bust the soil surface to kill weeds is no longer a popular approach.
Crop protection products and new active ingredients have come in to do the job. But there aren't currently any new weed killers in the pipeline. Farmers who have long used a mix of herbicides to jumble up the site of action each acts on can help prevent the appearance of resistance.
But that also means you're sprayer has to be in top notch condition. What coverage does it have? Is the pump meeting minimum pressure needs? Do you have the right spray nozzle.
For many farmers, the OTAA has helped to make sure you can have your sprayer ready to do the job precisely. There's greater scrutiny in agriculture than ever before. Consumers want to know you're a steward of the land, so precision spraying gets more value, and perhaps helps you justify the time and effort to get that machine ready to roll.
BASF has created an online training environment for the OTAA at its Growsmart University. If you're interested in the OTAA program just visit growsmartuniversity.com, click on "Herbicides" the select the module titled "Making an On Target Engenia Herbicide Application." While the material is targeted to Engenia, there's good general spray, and sprayer, management information available.