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What’s New in Pesticide Application Technology?

Extension associate addresses the challenges faced by growers

Chemical compounds that stunt or kill harmful insects, pathogens, and weeds remain an important part of the pest management package for most New York growers. The IPM Program must therefore take an active interest in the technology surrounding their application.

Extension Associate Andrew Landers, the newest member of Cornell’s Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, cares a lot about pesticide application technology, too. It’s his job. Landers, whose qualifications include a doctorate in agricultural engineering, covers four major topics in his numerous educational presentations to growers: 1) droplet size, 2) spray drift, 3) logistics, and 4) preseason sprayer maintenance and calibration.

Question-and-answer periods following these presentations reveal that many growers are unaware of the basic principles regarding droplet generation and nozzle selection. "They need to know," comments Landers, "that small droplets drift and large droplets bounce. They must define their target and then select the correct droplet size and the corresponding nozzle." Using the right nozzle and the right droplet improves ‘deposition,’ a term that refers to the amount of material that is deposited on its target.

Spray drift discussions center on ways to reduce drift. Most growers are well aware of the problem of off-target contamination, but the solutions can be difficult to employ. Landers strongly encourages spraying only when "ideal" weather conditions occur. This means, for one thing, avoiding windy conditions–not always an easy thing to do. "In some windy areas of the state," he points out, "ideal conditions for spraying may occur only at such ungodly hours as 2:00 a.m."

The logistics and sprayer maintenance discussions refer to such things as proper planning for an efficient, well-timed system, use of quality equipment that is in good repair, and proper configuration of the spray nozzles. The challenge for growers in these areas is often finding sufficient time to take the necessary steps.