Six Things You Must Know When Applying Pesticides

Many of you have just earned continuing certification credits and know the many different things that you need to know when applying pesticides. We agree there are many essential things to know, but we will try to simplify with a list of our top six for safe and effective pesticide applications.

Pick the best pesticides
Sometimes there are multiple options to control a pest problem, and sometimes there are not. When you have multiple effective options, choosing the least expensive and safest product is usually good. Other important considerations are resistance management, persistence in soil or crop and the likelihood of causing drift problems. As an aerial applicator, you are in a great position to get a broad overview as to what pest management treatments are working and advise your customers on their best options.

Follow the label directions
“Follow the label directions” is said so frequently that most of us probably do not hear it anymore. But yes, we always need to read and follow the pesticide label directions. Some of the newly approved labels have much more defined directions for application, adjuvants and pesticide tank-mixtures than we have seen before. Read carefully as the “new rules” are very restrictive and could significantly change your liability. If any application problems arise, you could be held liable and expected to have known and followed all the label directions. The label also gives important information on proper handling, storage and disposal.

Consider environmental conditions
Awareness of weather conditions is critical before any aerial application. High wind speed is always a concern, but lower wind speed is not always better because of the potential for inversions. Buffer zones can become almost irrelevant when winds are calm and there is an inversion. Know what the sensitive crops are and do not spray when the wind is blowing in their direction. Sometimes just saying no is the smartest decision you can make.

Proper sprayer setup
Hopefully, you participated at an Operation S.A.F.E. fly-in recently and your aircraft is set up correctly. Attending these clinics will help ensure a uniform application on the target area. The spray application needs to be fine-tuned to the chemicals being applied. Some pesticide tank-mix partners and ingredients such as oils, fertilizers, and surfactants produce more fine droplets, negatively affecting the spray pattern and increasing the potential for drift. Growers can detect non-uniform yield patterns with their GPS and yield monitors and may attribute any variations to improper application rather than from problems with what they told you to mix. Many customers have more experience with ground application and its higher spray volumes where what works well at 10 to 20 gal/A may be incompatible at 1 to 5 gal/A.

Nozzle selection, orientation, spacing, spray pressure, height and speed of application are all important spray factors. Sometimes the label specifies these parameters sometimes they specify the end result. If the sprayer setup is not defined, you have the flexibility to use the setup that you have determined to maximize efficacy and minimize drift.

Proper sprayer setup also means proper sprayer maintenance. Be sure to do your routine inspections to check nozzles, seals, filters and other system parts for wear and tear.

Proper sprayer cleanout
The more complex the mixture, the more difficult the residues are to clean out. Some pesticides are also very potent and cleaning them completely out of the spray system can require following strict and time-consuming label directions and the use of tank cleaners. A very small amount of some potent herbicides left on the side of the tank or in a filter can cause significant injury to the next crop. Setting up your spray sequences so you use the same pesticide and treat the same crop consecutively will help prevent crop damage, but it is still always good practice to follow label recommended cleanout practices.

Some experts do not focus on this problem in their training sessions because they know applicators will eventually learn from what is essentially a self-inflicted wound. However, your customers will not view this as self-inflicted and complain.

Pick the best adjuvants
Picking the best adjuvants will not make everyone’s list, but we are adjuvant guys and think it should. If you do not think adjuvants are important, use a bad one. It’s important to pay attention to what works and what doesn’t. The best compliment we hear is when a pilot says, “When your adjuvant is in my tank, I don’t see anything on my windshield.” Good adjuvants give a lot of value for the money by increasing pesticide efficacy, mitigating drift, enhancing retention, reducing evaporation and eliminating application problems.

Yes, there are many other things you need to know, but these are our top six. For more information on how to get the most out of your pesticide applications, contact John Garr at 765-395-3441 or