Weather Forecast


Science used to test aerial sprayers

A pilot flies across a field spraying pink-dyed water that will be tested for droplet size to ensure minimal drift. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)

As farmers prepare to plant crops, pilots from across Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin gathered in Park Rapids Wednesday for annual testing of their crop sprayers before the growing season begins.

Nick David, Midwest Regional Agronomist with R.D. Offutt Co. in Park Rapids, brought in pilots to test spraying and make sure their equipment is calibrated correctly. They conducted the testing at the Park Rapids Municipal Airport.

“We require anyone who flies for us to calibrate their planes or helicopters each year,” he said.

Pilots fly over a string that has been stretched over an area of the field at the correct height and speed while spraying water that has been dyed pink.

The string is analyzed in the computer to look at the pattern distribution across the width of the boom.

“We want to make sure it’s consistent across the entire width,” David said.

Water soluble cards are also set out and the droplet size is analyzed.

“The reason we do that is there is an optimum droplet size to reduce drift,” he added.

Department of Agriculture representatives were in Park Rapids to observe the testing, along with industry representatives.

After the testing Wednesday morning, a seminar was held to address topics including aerial application, ways to reduce drift and other new technologies.

M. Vincent Restucci, Director of Procurement and Business Technology with R.D. Offutt Co., distributes the products that are used on fields, including herbicides, insecticides and fertilizers.

“We work to figure out the preferred products for each crop,” he said.

The main goal is environmental stewardship and being good neighbors, Restucci added.

“We want to make sure we’re following everything to the T and being good stewards,” he said. “It’s incumbent upon us to demonstrate responsible use.” 

Dennis R. Gardisser, of WRK of Arkansas, LLC, conducted the testing and provided analysis for the pilots.

“It’s really a good way to test for anyone who does aerial application,” he said. “We want to make sure the airplanes are operating exactly the same way. It’s down to a science.”

Computers are used to measure droplet size and then work is done on the planes to make sure everything is in order.

WRK is involved in a number of field research projects and conducts S.A.F.E. calibrations in a number of states and provinces, according to its website. WRK specializes in calibration of spreaders on both fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft.

During Wednesday’s test, 15 airplanes and 10 helicopters were calibrated.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
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