Crop dusting had its roots in 1921 when Lt. John A. Macready piloted a modified Curtis JN-6 Super Jenny while passenger Etienne Dormoy dispensed lead arsenate from a crude metal hand-cranked hopper bolted to the plane’s fuselage. C.R. Nellie, an Ohio Department of Agriculture entomologist, had come up with the idea for crop dusting to control sphinx moth larvae in catalpa trees.


Little did the skeptics at the time realize but aerial application would only grow in importance and a century later is vital to farmers and foresters. In no other crop is it more crucial than in rice, where ag pilots do everything from flying seed into water-seeded systems to applying crop protection materials and harvest aids to planting subsequent cover crops by air.

“Nearly any industry that has survived for 100 years has had to evolve, and we’ve had to do a better job,” said Mark Kimmel, owner of Dixie Dusters near Itta Bena, Mississippi, and president of the National Agricultural Aviation Association. “We’re professional pilots, and we have training that we have to go through every year, educational updates, continuing education units. And we’ve invested in our planes with GPS for precision ag.”

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