Operating with 50% boom length
By Ike Brunetti / President MsAAA
Bolivar County Mississippi operators, including myself, seem to be adjusting with optimism and adapting to the 50% boom length restriction for glyphosate applications imposed by the Mississippi Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI). I continue to receive phone calls from operators outside Bolivar County curious about how we are managing the change of application and are concerned about its validity managing drift.
A little background on the 50% boom length restriction: The Farm Bureau Board of Bolivar County drafted a proposal to the BPI. The proposal was a total ban of glyphosate applications by air from April 1 through September 30, starting in the 2017 crop year. Their reasoning was they felt almost all glyphosate drift on rice originated from the aircraft. There was no documentation of proof or guided science in their determination of blame. This was strictly a use of strength substantiated through the ability to work behind the veil of the Farm Bureau. The BPI had to listen to their request and act through numerous meetings, mediating between Bolivar County Farm Bureau Board and the MAAA, as well as other vested interest groups. My one goal was to keep the airplane in service, no matter what.
The last compromise was the 50% boom length restriction, but at least the aircraft was kept in the air. In hindsight, total restriction would have engaged such a negative response from the farmer that probably all would have been dismissed.
Doing critical work, for me, has always revolved around several key questions I ask myself: Is the job requested a legally labeled task? What winds are needed to safely perform the job? What susceptible crops are downwind that could affect the application? Then, just plain and simple, is the job doable?
When all this is determined and there is no problem achieving the application per these guidelines, there should be no need in restricting the tested and proven capability of our aircraft to swath widths below a 75% wingspan.
Over the past few months having to use the 50% boom length restriction, my reactions have run from very cold dealing with the implementation to a touchable hot. First, let me say these are my personal comments comprised from applications I have made and witnessing its field use and outcome. It kills my soul to run a million dollar aircraft with researched and documented effective swath widths of 70 to 75 feet and then have to reduce its efficiency and capability to 55 or 60-foot swath widths under the 50% boom restrictions. It has reduced my efficiency by 25% and in certain specific jobs to 33%. This has made a huge impact in two things. First, my gross per hour has been reduced by these percentages and second, being effective in getting as much critical work (herbicides) done before wind direction and wind velocity shut the window of opportunity.
Once again, these are my personal comments. I will not promote or advocate that this application technique should ever become a mandatory solution to drift reduction for herbicide applications. I will admit that after weeks of personal applications and standing under my AT-802 as it sprayed, observing and critiquing its swath at 50%, I am now convinced of its merits. The 50% boom length definitely has application qualities that have really impressed me relating to drift reduction. No wingtip vortices and depending on your preference in nozzle orientation, the product applied settles quickly behind the aircraft. I see advantages in unique applications and less stress involved because of a new confidence level applying herbicides use 50% of the booms’ length.
The 50% boom length restriction imposed on Mississippi ag-operators is not the solution to drift occurrences. But, it is a very useful application tool that will remain in my use at my operation even after the restriction is lifted here in Bolivar County.