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Amanda Walker www.farmco.com.au
With up to 30,000 species of weeds, 3,000 species of nematodes (microscopic worms) and 10,000 species of plant-eating insects, as well as viruses, fungi, mites and mice, it's no wonder that Australian farmers rely so much on chemicals to protect their agricultural enterprises from pests, weeds and diseases.
Choosing the right chemicals is just one factor in achieving effective disease, pest and weed control. Best practice spray timing, application and equipment set up can make a significant difference to how effective and how cost efficient your spraying activities turn out to be.
In planning your spray program, consider the following steps to optimise your product performance and minimise spray drift:
1. Understand the 'what' and 'why' of your attack.
Before leaping into attack with a fist full of chemicals, first correctly identify the pest, weed or disease you want to control, the best method to use and the equipment you may need. If you need advice, check with your local Department of Agriculture, agronomist or advisor. Additionally, there are some excellent commercial databases available such as Infopest and HerbiGuide, which will assist you with matching up pests, weeds and diseases with their appropriate perpetrator.
2. Identify the most suitable 'warrior' to carry out your attack.
Select a chemical 'warrior' that is registered for control of the pest, weed or disease you have correctly identified. There are many options available, so seek advice from your agronomist or advisor before loading up the spray tank. The first thing to consider with any spray product is registration can the product be legally used for this purpose? The APVMA has a comprehensive database of all currently registered products and permits, which enables you to view or download product labels.
3. Identify the spray target for you chosen 'warrior'.
After selecting a suitable product, read and follow the label directions. Consider what your chosen product needs to hit to be most effective. Does the product need to hit the weed directly, or just reach the soil surface to protect the crop? Consider how long the product needs to be retained in that area, how evenly it needs to cover it and how closely the droplets should be spaced. Be prepared to act quickly as with spraying - timing is everything.
4. Spray quality to optimise product performance
Now that the target has been identified, it is time to consider spray quality needed to optimize product performance. Spray quality is determined by droplet size. The type of spray tip used determines the droplet size. Remember, smaller droplets will achieve maximum surface coverage of the target plant, but they will also increase the risk of drift. Conversely, larger droplets are less prone to drift, but can reduce the leaf coverage area.
5. Choose the right nozzles and equipment when going into combat
Nozzles and equipment can have a major impact on spray quality, as well as operating speed and pump pressure. Each spraying application experiences variance in spray penetration, coverage and run off, so it is essential that your system is set up and calibrated accordingly to minimise these variances. Nozzles are generally considered to be the most critical component in the spraying system chain, and often the most neglected. Incorrect, worn or damaged nozzles result in over application of chemicals, crop damage and environmental contamination. GRDC have a fantastic nozzle selection guide available click here to download it.
6. Assess the weather prior to launching your attack
The weather, particularly wind speed and direction, can have a significant influence on risk of spray drift and should be considered as part of a pre-spraying risk assessment. Wind speeds are critical when spraying. If conditions are too windy, chemicals may not be applied correctly to the target crop leading to poor results, increased drift and possible off target damage.
7. Keep track of your attacks (the victories and the losses).
To continually improve performance, keep detailed records of your spray activity, including the conditions and measures taken to minimise potential risks. If possible, photos with your phone are a handy way of providing a visual reminder of various pre and post spraying scenarios. You should also endeavour to undertake regular training to keep up to date on current best practice. Check out Chemcert for details on courses and training available in your local area.
So there you have it our 7 steps to help you achieve spraying success. Chemical application is serious business, and every program requires serious planning before the sprayer even leaves the shed. Adopting best practice to minimise spray drift will maximise both the effectiveness and efficiency of your all spraying activities, and possibly add back some money to the budget too!
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