We are now in the heart of summer, and get to enjoy all the activities that come with it. Many are going on family vacations, traveling by car or even airplane. Right now, another kind of aircraft is also showing its presence in the Midwest; airplanes for aerial crop application. Each year, we look forward to the fungicide planes in the area. However, we often hear from concerned community members about the low-flying planes, just as you may hear from your worried neighbors. We encourage you to share this with friends outside of the agriculture community to clear up the misconceptions of aerial application.
During the month of July, corn and soybeans may start to show symptoms of disease and can become severely overrun by damaging insects. To safely maximize the potential of their corn and soybean crops, many area farmers choose to apply fungicides and insecticides. Fungicides are used to cure and prevent diseases, while insecticides control insects.
The fungicide and insecticide sprayed by the airplanes are completely safe. They have been approved for use by both the USDA and the Iowa Department of Land Stewardship, as are all products applied by Stutsmans. Pets and people can still enjoy the outdoors when a crop duster is nearby. Furthermore, the amount of product being sprayed is very low. The particular fungicide we use calls for only 10.5 ounces per acre, with the rest of the mixture being water. To visualize this, it equates to less than a pop can of product covering a football field sized area. Now you may ask, why airplanes?
Crop dusters are preferred over ground machinery for several reasons. Airplanes allow farmers to treat disease and insect issues without running over and damaging their crop. Also, the downward-pushing air flow from the wings results in stronger product coverage, which is better for the plant.
Thanks to our precise GPS technology, we can be sure crops and only crops are sprayed. The pilot uses GPS coordinates to locate exactly where the field boundaries are. This ensures that nothing outside those boundaries get sprayed. Additionally, a drift retardant product is added to make drift relatively non-existent.
Another public concern stems from the height at which the planes are flying. The planes fly low to accurately spray the crops and eliminate drift potential. Before beginning professional aerial application, the pilots complete rigorous training and must pass several examinations. In addition to a pilot’s and applicator’s license, training also includes endorsements in aerial, fungicide, insecticide, herbicide, and more. You can be confident the pilots are following all safety precautions and are doing everything they can to complete the job safely, as they too want to return home to their families each night.
If your farm is certified organic, or you raise bees, berries, grapes, or any other specialty crop, let us know through DriftWatch.org. This is a national website that allows producers with specific no-spray requirements to document their precise location. Our GPS program then pins these locations and allows us to take extra precaution when spraying nearby fields. Help us help you by registering your no-spray production site.
When you see crop dusters out these next few weeks, smile, wave, and don’t be alarmed. As agriculturalists, we care about the environment and our community. We are always looking out for everyone’s health and safety. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us at 319-679-2281.