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Bulletproof philosophy often fails applicators

I have commented in several previous articles about the need for a very well organized education program on drift management. Perhaps the following example will help make the point.

I have looked at several rice fields this fall where the farmers first realized they had problems either right at harvest or after their combines were in the field and their trucks were not filling up.

In one particular case the farmer had not put the combine in the field yet. The field had obviously been affected by a drift of glyphosate in a pattern from south to north. While I did not make a thorough investigation to see where all of the drift might have originated, the pattern indicated it, in all likelihood, came from a soybean field adjacent to the rice field.

The field had been sprayed with ground application equipment and part of the field had been sprayed with a wind blowing toward the rice. The applicator had good intentions and thought he was doing the right thing to spray the south part of the field and then wait for a north wind to spray the north half next to the rice field.

Shortly after leaving the farmer, I received a call from the applicator (as is often the case). Of course, applicators are usually not happy with me and often disagree with my findings. In this case we had a pleasant conversation.

The applicator went to great lengths to explain his nozzle setup, and the fact he was running lo-drift and only sprayed the south part of the field while the wind was blowing toward the rice. Again, it was obvious he was making a conscious effort to do things right.

The conversation ended with the question, “So you really think it could drift that far?” My response was, “Yes sir, I sure do.”

I get several situations similar to that one each year. In most of the cases involving ground equipment, the drift came from a field adjacent to the rice field. In many of them, either the recorded wind was toward the rice — often at low velocities — or the applicator freely admits the wind was toward the rice.

There are the belief and confidence that with the “proper set-up” they simply do not get any drift. I often use the phrase that a lot of the ground applicators think they are bulletproof when it comes to drift. There has been great technology advancement in both aerial and ground application equipment. However they are not bulletproof.

I love the air induction nozzles for ground application. They represent advancement in drift control technology. However, they are not bulletproof.

A drift control agent may or may not help. I sometimes think any help that a drift control agent provides is more than offset by the belief it prevents drift. The result is often an application being made when it should not have been made because the applicator believes the drift control agent will keep him out of trouble.

I love the calls I get each year where the caller describes a spray situation, gives me the sprayer set up, the wind speed, the distance to the susceptible crop, etc. This tells me immediately he probably knows the application should not be made.

The question is always, “How far will it drift?” My answer is always, “A helluva lot further than you think.”

My attempt here is to show the need for better education. I do not think many people intentionally want to damage any field with a herbicide application.

The glyphosate task force proposed what I thought was a sound education program. I will pick education over regulation any time. I am confident the Extension service can deliver the program. However, it has to be funded and thus far it has not been.

I believe a golden opportunity is being missed and it will come back to bite in the future.


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