The past decade or so, agriculture has witnessed a host of ups and downs. And according to Joe Gednalske, director of product development for WinField Solutions, LLC, Shoreview, MN, the next few years for agriculture will see more of the same.
"I think that the next five years will be the most fun in agriculture that we've ever seen," says Gednalske. "But with the spread of herbicide-resistant weeds, this will also spur the development of new crop protection products and control methods, which will lead to more complex timing on application work to correct misses and mistakes. So the effort to limit spray drift will become even more important."
For this reason, WinField has built a special Spray Analysis System at its research facility in River Falls, WI. "Our investment in this state-of-art system reinforces our commitment to help ag retailers and growers to get the best performance from their spray applications," said Eric Spandl, Ph.D., technical marketing manager. "With new EPA spray drift regulations in the wings, WinField is ready to help agricultural professionals minimize spray drift and protect crop input investments."
Changing times, changing requirements
According to Spandl, much of the spray drift analysis conducted in the past has focused on the use of water in conjunction with crop protection products.
"When users are picking products based upon their spray quality, a lot of the numbers and data are based on water mixes," he says. "But water alone doesn't really represent all the tank mixtures being used today. There are a lot of other things that can influence drift such as adjuvant choice or the addition of crop nutrients."
Newer and returning crop protection products can also make a difference in the spray drift analysis, he adds. For example, many of today's most popular herbicides such as glyphosate only require a 75-foot buffer zone according to their product labels. However, products such as 2,4-D require a 250-foot buffer zone when applied.
Furthermore, according to Lillian Magidow, Agrisolutions technical lead, some of the industry's newer and larger self-propelled sprayers are also playing a part in the spray drift equation. "When people think about drift, they usually think about wind, and it's true that if the wind speed doubles, this doubles your drift potential," says Magidow. "But you need to consider the equipment, too. Tests show that if an applicator doubles the height of their boom, they end up tripling their drift potential."
Need for Spray Analysis System
When considering all these variables, WinField thought it made perfect sense to develop a comprehensive spray analysis system that could test for all of them. Developed by the company's research and product development staff, the Spray Analysis System consists of a fully-enclosed low-speed wind tunnel and a laser designed to illuminate droplet particles within its recirculating closed chamber. This way, the system can test a wide range of products including adjuvants, active ingredients and tank mixtures. It can also determine the effectiveness of various nozzles in preventing spray drift.
"These test results are recorded in a database system for comparison, and results are validated in the field, at university test sites and at the nearly 200 Answer Plot Program locations across the country," says Spandl. "Since we began operating the system early in 2012, more than 14,500 samples and 700 nozzle types have been tested to build an extensive testing database."
In the end, he says, WinField's Spray Analysis System can hopefully aid in the development not only of new techniques to reduce the risk of spray drift, but new product introductions that could help in this effort. "One of the big issues of concern everyone in agriculture talks about today is spray drift," says Spandl. "And the stakes are simple-if you are not getting product on target in the field, whether you are an ag retailer or a grower, you are wasting money at a minimum or facing serious liability issues at a maximum."