Farm Friday: Aerial Applicators

So I’ve been tossing the idea for this blog around in my head for a few months, and finally decided I just needed to jump right in.

And with that, I’m writing my first post on something I’ve seen a lot of lately: aerial applicators. Some may call them crop dusters. The little yellow airplanes flying over cornfields, piloted by people who have a lot more guts than I ever will.

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It fascinates me to watch these planes do their work. Flying low over the fields, then rising up quickly to loop around and back down again. I’m not the only one… the guy driving the SUV at 40 mph in front of me on my way home from work today was a little distracted watching them, too.

The last few days the planes have been out in full force here in central Illinois, applying fungicide. A couple years ago, I was able to write a story for my day job about some of the new technology used in aerial application. GPS maps that show exact field boundaries and prescribed treatments, instant electronic notification of field completion, and the ability to schedule fields for application up to a year in advance have all made this a economic option. Plus, when fungicide is most beneficial for corn (at VT stage – when the corn is tasseled), it’s normally much too tall to move through with other application equipment.

According to the National Agricultural Aviation Association, just under 20 percent of all crop protection products in the United States are applied by airplane, covering 71 million acres (just over 17 percent). Most crops can and have been treated by aerial application, but the most common are corn, wheat, soybeans, pastureland, and alfalfa.

So the next time you see one of those little yellow planes doing their acrobatic work, give a wave of thanks for the crucial role they play in producing our crops! And be thankful your workplace is a little more roomy than this:

Inside the cockpit of an aerial applicator. Not much wiggle room!

Inside the cockpit of an aerial applicator. Not much wiggle room!

~ FarmWife04

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