Pulse School: A plan for minimizing pesticide loss

(Source: Chafer Machinery, Flickr, CC-BY-2.0)

If you’re crunching numbers and figuring out ways to tighten up margins, one overlooked option could ensuring you’re getting the full value of the pesticides you apply. One way to measure this is by evaluating the amount of pesticide leftover after spraying.

Tom Wolf of AgriMetrix and Sprayers 101 joins Kara Oosterhuis for this episode of Pulse School to share some interesting research results on pesticide waste in sprayer booms.

“The real original idea was to figure out where does spray actually go? It’s kind of an environmental story in some ways, because we talk about drift a lot,” says Wolf. But pesticide loss doesn’t just occur in the field, as there is always some product left in the tank that needs cleaned out. In Wolf’s extension work, he’s been working with farmers and custom operators to develop strategies to minimize this disposal, but more work needs to be done.

Wolf was curious, though. If we know we lose some product to drift, just how much are we losing to disposal? Research suggest that, depending on the size of field you’re spraying, you could be losing 15 per cent or more after you’re done spraying.
Watch the full video for more on taking measurements to minimize spray waste, story continues below:

There some big-picture ways  to reduce waste — such as planning to cover the same fields that need the same active ingredient to decrease the number of cleanouts required. Plus, tightening up the calculation of what you need so that you’re having less leftover in the tank after — making sure the tank’s empty when you’re done — is another way to reduce spray waste.

“The booms hold a lot of material, they hold anywhere between 20 and 60 gallons depending on the size of your sprayer and the configuration,” says Wolf. “And that stuff, typically when you spray out, has to go on the ground, there’s no way around that.”

Wolf wants to be able to tell a good environmental story about ag, but also realizes there’s an economic side of that story as well. To calculate your spray waste, Wolf says there are two measurements you have to figure out: what’s left in your tank after you’ve finished spraying and what’s left in the booms. It takes time to measure these two things, but it could save a lot of money, and Wolf has a spreadsheet where you can put these two measurements together to calculate.

The environmental impacts of spraying mishaps are a bit of a skeleton in the closet, says Wolf, and he wants to open that conversation up.

“The first thing we can do as agricultural practitioners, professionals, is kind of be open about what we think we’re doing right and wrong, rather than be defensive about it,” says Wolf.

For more information on Wolf’s research into pesticide waste, including the spreadsheet to calculate your own, you can find that here.

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