Frequently Asked Questions

Why is it called aerial application instead of crop dusting?

In the early days, aerial applicators were known as “crop dusters” because they worked with powdered forms of chemicals and were literally dusting fields. Today, very little “dusting” takes place as aerial applicators deliver liquid products or dry granular products and even seed to control pests and diseases and to provide nutrients for American agriculture.

Why should I use an aircraft to treat my fields?

Aircraft can treat a large number of acres quickly without disturbing the soil or the crop. This is important because some pests and diseases can cause serious damage to a growing crop in just a day or two. Aerial application accounts for the delivery of up to one-fourth of the crop protection products used in American agriculture. Airplanes and helicopters are also used to seed a variety of crops, fertilize crops, defoliate crops prior to harvest, protect forests, feed fish, control mosquitoes, and even to melt ice!

Do you only spray pesticides?

A large volume of our work consists of applications of liquid and dry fertilizers along with other nutrients and seed. We are also able to make liquid fertilizer applications at variable rates using a prescription map. Our aerial applicators can “plant” seed from the air into wet fields inaccessible to ground equipment and spread cover crop seed to prevent erosion and help improve water quality.

Is coverage just as good as a ground sprayer and how does an airplane get up against tree lines and into corners of the field?

Yes! With a ground sprayer, the product sprays down from the boom at a high volume and the sprayer must drive across the entire field for complete coverage. With an aircraft, the turbulent airflow under and behind the aircraft rolls the spray down into the crop. This air movement carries the spray to the bottom of the crop canopy and is very effective at reaching the underside of the plant leaves where many insects like to hide. Our aircraft are guided by GPS and use flow control to supply a consistent application rate no matter the changes in speed of the aircraft.

Why do airplanes only apply 2 or 3 gallons per acre? Doesn’t more water mean better coverage?

No, a better way to look at this is: many chemical labels require a ground sprayer to apply 10+ gallons per acre in order to achieve the same coverage as an aircraft applying 2 or 3 gallons per acre. Properly set up and properly flown, an aircraft can have equal or better coverage than a ground sprayer in many situations, particularly when the application is made to crops nearing maturity. A properly setup aircraft has a uniform swath with a tightly controlled droplet spectrum and is able to apply the appropriate droplet size for the product being applied. A properly flown aircraft will be at the appropriate application height (for liquid spraying this is generally 25% of the aircraft's wingspan or 8’ –12’ ) , this will allow the airflow around the aircraft to move the spray droplets down into the crop canopy. Flying too low can result in a streaky or uneven application but flying too high is far worse as the airflow around the airplane will not reach the crop making it difficult for the spray droplets to penetrate into the crop canopy. Releasing the spray too high also results in increased spray movement downwind (possible drift) and very high evaporation rates.

Does aerial application cost more?

The upfront cost of aerial spraying is on average a few dollars more than ground application, however, an aerial application may actually improve your profit per acre because there is no crop loss or damage from wheel tracks, no risk of transferring diseases and weeds from field to field and no soil compaction.

My field is within or borders a wind farm, will I be able to get aerial application services?

Each field near a wind turbine will be evaluated separately. We value safety above all else as the physical size of these wind turbines can create a hazard to aerial applicators. The grouping of wind turbines together within a relatively small area creates a sort of obstacle course that must be dealt with while managing the aircraft and performing many other tasks necessary for a safe application. Large wind turbines create an area of turbulent air downwind that can extend for a mile or more. This disturbed air increases the risk of drift and poses an additional safety hazard to the flight of our aircraft. A charge of 1.5 times the normal application rate will apply to any field where these obstacles are in, adjacent to, or otherwise change the way our aircraft has to maneuver to properly treat the field. In some cases, we will elect not to treat a field near wind turbines due to these hazards.

Wind Turbines R&M Spraying

How do you make sure the product lands on the plant?

The dispensing of crop protection products from an aircraft is precise and targeted. We begin planning the application before we even get to the field using aerial satellite images of the field and surrounding areas. Once we get to the field we complete another inspection of the area before making an application. There is sometimes the misconception that if there is an aircraft flying around fast and low that chemical is getting everywhere and this couldn't be further from the truth when flown by a skilled and trained pilot. The concern of drift is a possible issue for both air and ground applicators, however, we take all the necessary precautions we can to mitigate drift off target. Spray droplet size is the single biggest factor determining if drift will occur. Our nozzles are calibrated for optimum droplet size conducive to aerial spraying and we use spray additives to further aid drift reduction. Our aircraft attend recurring calibration clinics to ensure our nozzles and settings are to the best standards.

Do airplanes drift and what is the white smoke that sometimes comes from the airplane?

We do not make applications when the wind speeds are not favorable to the applications we are making; "not favorable" is determined by product volume, composition, label regulations and recommendations, and site-specific hazards. Our aircraft also have "smokers" in which we release a trail of smoke to determine wind speed and direction and where and how far the smoke carries to analyze any movement. We work with the speed and direction of the wind to create buffer zones and make certain application patterns to ensure on-target application. We take great care in our service, and all applications are given considerable thought and analysis. Our pilots also attend recurring clinics to keep up with the latest in actions and technology to mitigate drift.

Is it OK to watch an aircraft spray?

Yes. We take great care to protect the health and safety of the public, remember you are responsible for your health and safety as well. Never enter a field during or immediately after aerial application. Never linger or stand in or directly next to the crops or at the immediate edges of the field while watching, walking, or bicycling. Never become an obstacle by purposely trying to distract the pilot, or positioning yourself or your vehicle in the path of the aircraft.