As you head into the spring season, one of the many things you will have to be prepared for is spraying – for weeds, disease or both. Troy Basaraba, market development representative with Bayer, offers growers ten tips to help you be prepared.
- Know your enemy. Understanding what you are heading into the field to tackle is the first thing any grower needs to do before they make an application decision. Are your main targets grassy weeds? Broadleaf weeds? How big are they? Are you spraying for disease? “Growers need to understand what they are going after and therefore the best approach to take out the problem,” says Basaraba. “For example, if you are going after wild buckwheat at the 2-3 leaf stage, it’s a different approach than if it’s at the 8-leaf stage.”
- Understand your product. While it may seem obvious, there’s a lot to know about the various crop protection products on the market before you apply. From the mode of action, whether it is contact or systemic, to how the product is impacted by the environment, temperature and water volume. You should also know the ideal window of application and when you can expect to see an impact from an application. Using digital tools to track your application rates and spray timing can be key to getting a complete picture of how your application performed.
- Scout. “Scouting tells you what you are dealing with across your fields,” says Basaraba. Tools such as satellite imagery can help with monitoring your fields in the timeframe leading up to application.This will tell you the stage of both the crop and the weeds and will point you in the direction of how to best time your application of whatever product you are using.”
- Select water volume. The proper water volume depends on the product you are using. A product with a contact mode of action needs more water than a systemic product. Fungicides are heavily dependent on good coverage, so higher water volumes are critical. Make sure your water volume matches your product. When in doubt, test for yourself, digital record keeping platforms are a great way to test out different water volumes and understand how impactful using the correct water volume can be.
- Identify the best droplet size for the task. “There is a careful balance when choosing droplet size,” says Basaraba. “Fine droplets offer great coverage but are extremely prone to drift while larger droplets can help with drift management but may sacrifice coverage. For general in-crop herbicide and fungicide applications, we try and target around 250-350 microns or a coarse droplet size for a balance between both goals.”
- Nozzle selection. Basaraba says to choose a nozzle that works the best to get the droplet size you are trying to achieve. “There are lots of great nozzles out there and many will perform well to get the job done,” he says. “You need to choose the one that that will get you within the ideal operating range.”
The best nozzle size will allow you to travel at a manageable speed for good coverage with the pressure you need to get the droplet size you’ve identified. Basaraba says to check your nozzle’s application charts to understand the relationship between speed and pressure to get your desired droplet size and water volume.
- Don’t go too high and get the angle right. “Sometimes I drive by fields and sprayer booms are so high I know that the product is not getting where it needs to go,” he says. “If you are going too fast it makes it tougher to keep boom height accurate, so keep the speed manageable so your booms are low enough to ensure your product coverage is there.”
- Calibrate your sprayer. Make sure your sprayer is putting out what it supposed to be doing and placing product where it supposed to go. Check to make sure there are no plugs, flow rates per nozzle are consistent and that the spray pattern is even. Basaraba says one way to check spray pattern is with water sensitive paper, which will show what kind of coverage your sprayer is getting.
- Monitor your environment. Keeping an eye on the weather doesn’t just mean the temperature. While cool and hot temps impact spraying, so does the wind, humidity, inversions and rain. Staying on top of the weather during spraying is a crucial step.
- Assess your performance. Basaraba says a timely check of your application and your product’s performance is an often overlooked step. “I stress that growers choose an appropriate time to check and see how their spraying performed,” he says. “If you check a couple of weeks after application you will understand what kind of control you achieved and you may be able to remediate any issues if they happen. In addition, you know by the end of that spray season what you can learn and apply for the following year.” Using digital tools to track applications can be a very efficient way to understand how your fungicides performed.