Progressing Towards a Comprehensive Drift Management Strategy

Now more than ever before, custom applicators must pay close attention to the product label requirements for use of crop protection products. The risk of spray drift is no longer a price any grower or applicator is willing to sacrifice, as the potential for crop damage expands beyond the target field or area. Further complicated with increasing pest resistance problems, custom applicators must closely follow the product label guidelines as the ‘law’ in order to preserve the best alternatives for an effective pest control program.

Applicators of crop pesticides have always known that controlling off-target movement is an important part of a good application practice.  The challenge is that applied products can affect neighboring crops due to multiple causes.  Sometimes it is just due to making applications at the wrong time, like when ground-level winds are too high.  The wind currents pick up the smaller particles in the spray and land where the applicator did not intend them to.  In other cases and under the right (or maybe, really, the wrong conditions) products can volatilize after application (e.g. high air temperatures or high humidity conditions) and can affect adjacent crops that are susceptible.  And occasionally, an applicator may select the incorrect spray tips, or excessive tip pressure, and unintentionally create an excessive amount of extra-small droplets, that under certain conditions (e.g. light wind currents) can be carried off target and drift.  

What’s more, when the previously mentioned spray drift issues are compounded with new crop product technology, such as dicamba-resistance, applicators can now encounter even more risk due to susceptible crop damage. Consider also the mounting concerns about glyphosate-resistant weeds impacting more fields every year. It is now more crucial than ever before to apply a combination of active ingredients at just the right crop growth stage, when the weeds are at the ideal height, and when the compounds are still effective.

Fortunately, with advancements in biotechnology and information science, spray applications can be efficiently planned and managed to ensure low risk of drift, volatilization, and most importantly – crop damage leading to loss in yield. From a research and development standpoint, crop chemical product companies can leverage their multidisciplinary expertise to understand how certain environmental conditions, land topography, and crop development can impact the performance (effectiveness) of crop protection products. As a result, the ideal application conditions can be documented on product labels so custom applicators can effectively administer products with fewer risks.

Beyond understanding the behavior of chemical products under environmental and agronomic conditions, many other precision ag technologies support on-target spray application. In addition to spray hoods, advanced nozzles, and spray solution drift-retardant agents; data modeling technologies can support crop product users to pinpoint the critical conditions and identify the best timing for application.  A comprehensive drift management strategy is now a requirement, as agriculture seeks to preserve its effective-when-used-correctly but costly-when-used-incorrectly weed control tools.

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