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Crop spraying is astonishing when you think about it

Getting effective coverage with just one ounce active ingredient per acre is, well, amazing.

Last week dad and I were sitting down with Ryan, one of the local chemical dealers. During the conversation we got off task and the dealer mentioned something about being an ambassador for ag. We know as farmers we often fall short at communicating truths about agriculture and putting a positive light on our business.

Here is the gist of what Ryan said: When I come in contact with someone who chooses to criticize agriculture for spraying chemicals all over and polluting the earth, I often try to ask them this one question: Do you realize that a farmer has the capability of taking quantities as small as one ounce and spreading that evenly over an entire acre?

A week later, it appears the weather is about to change, and sprayers will soon be in the field. His question has gone through my mind more than once. So I’d like to go one step further and break it down.

First off, how big is an acre? I can give you the simple answer of 43,560 square feet, but let me give some perspective. That is approximately 210 feet x 210 feet --a common size for a rural house lot. A football field (including the end zones) is about 1.3 acres.

Now, let’s look at an ounce. It’s not very much. Google says an ounce is about 532 drops. The bottle of sports drink on the desk beside me is 16.9 ounces. Can you imagine trying to evenly distribute that over one football field let alone a dozen of them? It would be like trying to take one drop from an eyedropper and spreading that over an area the size of your car!

So, what is it that you see when someone is out spraying a field? Well, most of it is water or a liquid fertilizer carrier used to distribute product. Not all chemical products are measured in ounces. Pints and quarts are common. Even so, most of the time a ground application is over 95% carrier. Most of the time surfactants (to improve absorption by vegetation) and anti-drift agents are also in the solution.

I haven’t even gone into the machine calibration, nozzle selection, or automatic GPS coverage controls. We want to be precise in our applications. We don’t want to purchase extra product, or put on too little and risk resistant weeds. Remember, a farmer’s future comes from the land.

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress.

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