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6 ways to reduce herbicide drift

sprayer control in the cab
ADJUST TO PREVENT DRIFT: Modern technology on sprayers can make it easier to make adjustments from the cab. Be alert to changes in conditions and make modifications as needed to minimize drift.
Lessen the odds for drift — and for confrontation if there is drift.

Many people are excited about using new technology to fight weeds. They’re hoping for better control with the dicamba-based products that can now be applied over Xtend soybeans. At the same time, others are concerned that the new herbicide labels will be hard to follow. The labels themselves continue evolving as EPA evaluates new nozzles and tank mixtures.

Fred Whitford has some advice for those concerned about the complexities of the new labels. He is the director of Purdue University Pesticide Programs.

“The bottom line is that you want to prevent drift,” he emphasizes. “If you prevent drift, and if there aren’t complaints from neighbors about damage to their crops or plants, then everything will go much smoother.”

Here are six tips for minimizing spray drift and complications in the aftermath of spray drift. Some of these tips were originally outlined in PPP-51, "Stay on Target: Prevent Drift," authored by Joe Becovitz of the Office of the Indiana State Chemist and Cheri Janssen of Purdue Pesticide Programs.

1. Think about the area surrounding each field. Know where sensitive crops are located. Make sure you pick the most ideal conditions possible to spray near those areas. One way to locate sensitive areas is to use the DriftWatch website, Whitford says. It’s now broken up into three parts: DriftWatch, FieldWatch and BeeCheck. Specialty growers and beekeepers can list their crops and hives on maps, and applicators can access the maps to see where these vulnerable areas are.

2. Follow label restrictions. Know what each herbicide label says. If it’s a new dicamba product and the label says you must check a website before applying, then check the website. If it says to keep the boom within 24 inches of the target, then make sure you comply.

Get more INSIGHT: Download Best Practices for Spraying now!

3. Adjust application settings to fit conditions. Start by selecting nozzles that produce large droplets. The new dicamba labels specify which nozzles you can use. Originally, only one nozzle was approved. At last check of the XtendiMax label, there were 20 nozzles from which to choose.

4. Make further adjustments as necessary. Perhaps you need to lower the spray pressure or increase spray volume. Remember that contact products like Liberty require a higher spray volume for good coverage. The goal is obtaining coverage without producing medium or fine droplets, which are more prone to drift.

5. Make accurate judgments on wind speed. This can be tricky, but it’s essential if you want to avoid drift. Some of the new dicamba-based product labels specify not to spray if the prevailing wind is toward sensitive crops. It may be possible to spray the field at a different time when the wind is out of a different direction, blowing at a lower speed, or both.

6. Use common sense when spraying. If you’re spraying and the wind shifts, you may need to adjust your plans. Common sense also includes things such as responding to any complaints after the application is made. Ignoring unhappy neighbors and hoping they will go away usually doesn’t work. With that approach, you may end up talking to the neighbor as well as an investigator from the Office of the Indiana State Chemist.

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