A mixed bag for the 2016 spray season

The 2016 season is coming to a somewhat close for many operators and pilots (end of August) throughout the world. The results are all over the board, but for most – as you will read below, a slight downturn in their season was experienced. This, contrasted with good fungicide runs in Canada and Iowa presented the 2016 Season Report as a mixed bag. Read commentary below from operators around the globe.

Toby McPherson/ND – All is good here, but has been a little slower season for most around here. Commodity prices play a big factor, of which has been very low for most crops.

Marc Mullis/Fires – Overall very slow, compared to a 10-year avg. Hours flown up, due to aggressive initial attack approach to fighting fires.

Drew Keahey/LA – Actually dollar-wise, we are above where we normally are this time of the year. Really busy now spraying cotton and soybeans for worms. Rice was good to us this year as well. Defoliation on cotton should begin in 3-4 weeks. Reed has been playing catchup for about a week now due to rain that we normally don’t get in August.

Ricky Davidson/MS – My season here in the Mississippi Delta has been slower than usual. We won’t be finished until early October, but my projection is that we will be at 75-80% of our usual gross. With commodity prices being low for cotton, soybeans and corn, my customers moved into “survival mode” (don’t spend anything unless absolutely necessary). We were really wet here early, then had a drought. During the dry weeks, a lot of the nitrogen on our corn was applied by ground. I believe these were the two biggest factors that have caused us to be slower than normal.

Dennie Stokes/AR – We have had a good season so far, but it is definitely slowing down. Our rice acres was back up to average, so that really helped. But our wheat acres were of considerably. One thing that will hurt us is most new soybeans herbicides will not have an aerial label due mostly to drift and volatility issues. Because of weed resistance to glysophate, the chemical companies are bringing out the big guns. Cotton acres have made a small comeback and we love to spray cotton. Currently, we are spraying fungicides and pesticides on soybeans and applying sodium chlorate on rice. We are waiting on cotton defoliation and winter pre-emerge applications to start, which in the past have really been good to us.

Shaun Kinniburgh/CAN – Canada has seen what could be summed up as a well above average year for most areas. Forestry is very strong in Eastern Canada with spruce budworm spraying keeping a lot of planes busy throughout the spring and early summer. The prairies started out seeding in average to very dry soil conditions but that all changed around the end of June and the moisture seems to not want to stop. It made for a great fungicide run for most operators. It seemed like the country didn’t have enough aircraft to keep up this year which is a great problem to have.

Frankie William/GA – We are having a little less than a normal year. Mostly because the cotton acreage is down from the last couple years. Our customer base has about 25% less cotton than last year. From what I’m hearing from around the state, it’s pretty much the same for everyone. I’m guessing that we are at about 90-95% of the same gross as last year, at this time, but there won’t be as much cotton to defoliate, so we’ll probably end up at about 90%.

Jeff Chorman/Northeast – Wheat acres were down about 15%, but it was really wet here so we made up for it by not having any ground rigs in the fields. Weather was awful in the spring, so it was a hard wheat run. Corn was dragged out due to how wet the spring was and planting was dragged out, as well. In fact, we still have about 300 acres of corn to spray the end of this week. We are applying fungicide on soybeans, but it won’t be much. Cover crops looks to be about the same this year as last, since the government hasn’t cut the program. Mosquito control is normal. I haven’t seen any more spraying because of Zika. I think it’s gonna be a decent year.

Grant Lane/Texas – My thinking is that everyone – for the most part – is experiencing an average to above average season. I know there are spots that are subpar, but I believe the others overshadow them. I haven’t talked much to operators in Mississippi lately, as the last time I was there they were dry and flying was down. The guys in Montana were busy in the area that I recently delivered an AT-502A.

Ret Orsmond/ South Africa – The last South Africa season, June 2015 – May 2016, was probably the worst ever. This was due to terrible droughts in all areas of South Africa, which became an importer of grain, normally an exporter. In the past, we either had a bad season at the Cape (southern headland of South Africa) and a good one on the Highveld (inland plateau of South Africa) or vica versa. The past season was bad everywhere, including Natal (eastern South Africa). Sugarcane farmers have also suffered badly due to droughts. Even the fire season was abnormally quiet due to unseasonal rains in firefighting areas. The weather was a bit screwed up. Irrigated areas were average due to water restrictions. So, all in all, a very difficult time.

This current season, started June 2016, has started a bit better with the Cape season having good rains. My son, Michael, is busy there and tells me that it could be a normal to slightly above normal season. We had some early rain in the Highveld area and crops are now going in. Farmers are more positive and the feeling is good for the coming season. We are really grateful for this. Firefighting, however, is still quiet and the season will be below average.

Zimbabwe is still in a terrible state due to its president, Mugabe. I think there is only one serviceable ag aircraft there, but it hardly worked. When Mugabe is gone, things will start happening again, but it will take a long time.

Malawi and Zambia had reasonably good seasons, but this was due to an aphid outbreak in sugarcane. So, ag operators are buoyant there, but farmers are poorer. Their crops were also affected by some dry areas .

Mozambique had less than an average season, as did Kenya and Tanzania. We believe Cameroon and Nigeria had average seasons. The rainfall was about average in these areas.

Jared Storm/ NE – The 2016 spray season had a slow start. Favorable spring weather led to very little disease and pest pressure. By mid-July, however, acres started coming in as growers were spraying fungicides more for the plant health aspect rather than for disease control alone. We did have a few isolated cases of Northern Corn Leaf Blight and Gray Leaf Spot, but other than that there was no widespread corn disease. We also had our first experience spraying for Japanese Beetles, a pest normally found east of the Mississippi River. They were found in both corn and soybean fields. Our soybean fungicide acres have remained steady the past several seasons as more and more growers have seen a consistent yield increase from spraying soybeans. In the end, our total acres treated were slightly down from the past few seasons, but after a slow start we are pleased with the season’s results.

Rick Richter/CA – As far as the California season, speaking for myself, I can say that it was a good one; about as good as they come. Our last fungicide jobs were on the 16th of August and that was pretty much about the end of the season for us here in the Sacramento Valley. Most operators in the Sac Valley area are going to report the same. The full water deliveries for most districts north of Sacramento meant 100% rice planting, which is always a plus for the ag operators.

With rice at full tilt, comes mosquitoes. There are a few operators with contracts to do the spraying and I think they’re having a decent year.

I haven’t heard a whole lot about the season for the guys in the San Joaquin Valley, other than I know that there were water restrictions; mostly due to the Delta Smelt and all the “hoopla” around that.

Lachlan Hill/Queensland Australia – We are coming out of our winter season at full blast. We have received steady rain and all the winter crops look good; wheat, barley and chickpeas. All our aircraft (18) are in the air working a full spead ahead of forecast rain applying mostly fungicide, dry urea and insecticides. It has been a good season and the outlook for the upcoming season looks very good.



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