Spraying Crops … herbicides, insecticides, fungicides

The sprayer in action.... the long part folded out behind is called the boom. It is where the chemicals come out. Justin can control the height of it and will keep it as low to the ground as possible, so that the chemicals get only to where they need to go and nowhere else.

Spraying crops is Justin’s specialty.  He has a brain for math, and it takes a lot of math when you are applying herbicides (weed killers) and insecticides (bug killers) to a crop.  He has to figure exactly how many ounces of concentrate he needs to dilute with water in the 800 gal sprayer tank.  He also must know how many acres and batches of pesticide he needs to mix up to cover a field.

This screen helps Justin to keep the sprayer running exactly parallel to it's previous path, minimizing the amount of overlap and wasted product. It is accurate within 4-6 inches thanks to GPS.

There are several technological advances that have allowed us to “do more with less.”  GPS technology helps us to put on the bare minimum of chemicals required to control weeds.  We also add crop oil concentrate to our mixtures to decrease even further the amount of chemicals used.  GMO technology and seed treatments have drastically decreased the need for insecticide to be applied with the sprayer. Chemicals are very expensive and it is not cost effective for us to use any more than is necessary to do the job.

This screen tells Justin the rate at which the chemicals are being applied and allows him to adjust the rates as well.

Using herbicides on our crops increases the yield and decreases the carbon footprint of every acre of corn and beans.  We don’t have to burn a lot of fuel tilling weeds under.  The sprayer can cover a lot more ground, more efficiently than tillage equipment.  It also prevents soil erosion.

All of these controls are what moves the sprayer: forward, reverse, speed, folding and unfolding the boom, etc.

The number of times the crops get sprayed is minimal.  Sometimes the chemicals we use can keep weeds from growing for a few weeks.  Typically the sprayer only has to pass over a field of corn or beans twice before the crops canopy, which means they are big enough to shade the ground and prevent weeds from growing.  A hay field has to be sprayed with insecticide after every cutting to prevent aphids from eating it up.

This monitor allows Justin to program in what chemicals he is using, and then will map where and at what rate they were applied in the field.

Some of the pesticides we use require a license.  Justin goes to yearly training sessions to keep up-to-date on regulations and safety procedures, and to maintain his license.

The co-pilot

One way to wrap your brain around all of this is to compare it to your household and lawn.  You apply bug killers when your house is invaded by those nasty asian beetles.  Farmers apply bug killers when bugs threaten to eat so much of their crops that it could destroy them.  You apply weed killers to get rid of dandelions in your lawn.  Farmers apply weed killers to keep weeds from affecting the crops.  Farmers just work on a bigger scale.

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Wayne Nieman on May 2, 2010 at 2:27 am

    Outstanding description.

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