Setting up the sprayer for safe and accurate applications is a key step for any farmer or custom applicator who needs to apply crop-protection chemicals to farmland.
Ever wonder how aerial applicators make sure their spray-application equipment is working properly?
U of I Extension's Scott Bretthauer is an expert on that. Each year, he conducts fly-ins for aerial applicators, to ensure that their spray equipment applies pesticides accurately to treat specific weed, disease or pest problems.
Specialized equipment is used to test and measure the spray pattern and the size of the spray droplets created by the aircraft. Trained analysts help the pilots evaluate the results of these tests and make adjustments on their aircraft to ensure safe and accurate chemical applications.
A "string analysis system" is used to test the width and uniformity of the aircraft's spray pattern, Bretthauer explains. A special non-toxic dye is mixed with water in the aircraft's tank. Pilots then fly their aircraft over a string laid out on a flight line, spraying just as they would during a normal application. Three passes over the string are made for each test series.
The string is then collected on reels and taken to the analysis center. There the string is run through a fluorometer, which measures the amount of dye deposited on the string. A software program records the data and is used to interpret the results.
Pilots gain two important pieces of information from this analysis, Bretthauer said. First, the pilot can determine if the spray pattern is uniform. Second, he or she can determine the swath width that will provide the most uniform application across a field.
U of I Extension conducts several fly-ins annually, in various locations around the state. Bretthauer, an Extension pesticide safety education specialist, coordinates the fly-ins, in cooperation with members of the Illinois Agricultural Aviation Association (IAAA).
For dates and other details on upcoming Illinois fly-ins, contact Bretthauer at 217-333-9418 or email@example.com