By Brian Hefty
Managing spray drift requires thought and effort each year, but it is nothing you can’t handle if you follow just a few simple steps.
- Make sure you know about the product you are spraying. There are many new products and new combinations on the market. It gets confusing. Work with a good agronomist and have that person fill you in on the drift potential of each pesticide you use. Not only that, but know which crops that product can injure and which ones it won’t. Keep residual, carryover, and rotational restrictions in mind.
- Get triple nozzle bodies (or 5-way nozzle bodies). This allows you to switch spray nozzles in minutes rather than hours if the wind picks up or calms down.
- Use drift reduction nozzles, but don’t always use them. Air induction and Turbo TeeJet nozzles work great at making spray droplets bigger. When they are bigger they weigh more, and they reach the ground faster. The problem with bigger droplets is they don’t provide nearly the spray coverage that smaller droplets do, assuming water volume remains the same. In other words, if it’s not windy and I’m in the middle of a field there’s no way I want to use a drift reduction nozzle. An extended range flat fan nozzle will give me slightly better weed, insect, or disease control, depending on the pesticide I’m using.
- Use a drift retardant, if necessary. Some farmers, rather than use a drift reduction nozzle, prefer to add a drift retardant. My biggest concern with drift retardants is using too much. Always start low and add a little more if everything is mixing fine and getting applied accurately. Too much drift retardant could leave a sludge in your tank, a poor spray pattern, and a lot of anguish for you. However, there are some excellent drift retardants on the market today. We have had great success with Border and products containing Border like Array. Border has the HPPG polymer that won’t suffer pump sheer like the old polyacrylamide drift retardants do.
- Go overboard on caution when it comes to neighboring fields. Make sure the wind is out of the right direction. Come back and spray parts of fields at different times when necessary. Check the wind speed and direction constantly. Have ample spraying equipment for the acres you farm. Make sure the person who is operating your sprayer is well trained on managing drift.
I know there are quite a few things I’ve listed here, but don’t be scared about doing your own spraying or about spray drift. We have applied all our own ground applications on our farm for decades with almost no issues. As long as you use caution when you apply products, especially near field borders, spray drift won’t be much of a concern on your farm either. If you need further motivation, keep in mind that anytime there is spray drift that means the product you wanted for your field to control pests ended up elsewhere, meaning you didn’t get maximum value for your pesticide investment. Keep your spray on target and you’ll be happier with the results, and so will your neighbors.