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Use Targeted Spraying Tools to Balance Pesticide Use

Use Targeted Spraying Tools to Balance Pesticide Use

1 May 2024 Author: Erin Hightower Read time: 3 min

An old proverb says, "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now." For producers and those of us at RDO Equipment Co., we focus on a challenge for today and years in the future: balancing pesticide use, pest control and maintaining soil health.

A lot goes into responsibly managing soil health, but the practice is remarkably beneficial: targeted spot spraying. Overapplication of pesticides is wasteful, expensive and a time management nightmare — and it could harm the soil's health for growing crops. Spot spraying systems create opportunities for growers to target intra-field variability of pesticide growth when pesticides need to be applied.

Most Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) now offer aftermarket spot sprayer upgrades to retrofit sprayers and factory installed models. Most aftermarket spot spraying systems are vigorously marketed, with many of those marketing materials accurately claiming you’ll be able to put 70% of your spraying costs back into your pocket with an upgrade. Of course, this kind of savings offers immediate gratification. Still, for those of us keeping an eye on the oak we should have planted yesterday —and in the years and decades ahead — the real win comes from the efficacy of an upgraded spraying application.

Let’s assume you were charged $10 per acre in pesticides, and with that sprayer upgrade, you now pay $3 per acre. That sounds fine, right? But what if you reinvested the $7 you saved and purchased a more advanced spraying technology for the next application, using only 30% of that product, which equals more efficient kill and fewer pests? That sounds like an environmentally — and financially — positive outcome as we see more pesticide resistance and over-application than ever.

All of us know inputs, like pesticides and equipment costs, have increased over the past several years, so it can be hard to remember old proverbs or worry about making “future oak tree” decisions that require more funds and effort for downstream benefits (isn't it easy to worry only about this year instead of thinking about the generation ahead?). However, our care to reduce chronic pest growth this year while managing pesticide resistance will increase the viability of the soil and water for many years to come.

Trust me, 20 years from today; you'll be thanking your past self, who had the old wisdom to invest time, effort and funds in aftermarket spraying equipment. Our future selves will be grateful we planted the operational seed of responsible nutrient management through targeted pesticide applications. 

Erin Hightower

Erin Hightower has been working in farm planning and agronomy for 15 years. As an Agronomist at RDO Equipment Co., she works with team members and growers in the Northwest region, focused on education and training, and conducting field trials. She is a Certified Crop Advisor (CCA) and Certified USDA NRCS Nutrient Management Planner, Certified Conservation Planner, and Comprehensive Nutrient Management Planner.

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