Should you spray with a drone?

Ned Birkey

March may have come in like a lamb, but several agricultural forecasts are calling for cooler and wetter conditions for most of the month. If true, this will affect last minute cropping plan decisions and whether or not to keep winter wheat.Two farm trucks, one with a trailer of spray and/or fuel tanks or with pesticide spraying equipment are needed for a March 17 class at MCCC. Farmers who volunteer to bring either a straight truck with a tank in the bed or bring a semi-tractor and trailer will have their $35 fee waived. The class runs from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and has been granted six recertification credits. The class will include a morning truck discussion and walk around with two officers from the Motor Carrier Division of the Michigan State Police. In the afternoon there will be a tractor and sprayer calibration demonstration. Emma Campbell, Monroe/ Wayne County MAEAP technician will demonstrate the groundwater flow model, which will all be held at Founders Hall on the MCCC campus. To register and pay, call MCCC at 384-4229. For more information about the trucks or the class, call Ned Birkey at 734-260-3442.Why spray with a drone? At the Great Lakes Fruit and Vegetable Expo and again at the Ohio State Corn and Soybean Day, this was one of the hot topics of interest. Drones may work best for spot spraying more valuable crops such as small fruits. But people are also asking about spraying including for tar spot in corn, especially if airplanes or high boy sprayers are already booked up. First of all spray drones have a very limited tank size and are expensive. Second is the get the necessary FAA license and approvals to fly a drone. Third is the get the necessary pesticide certification. Fourth is to notify airports, such as Toledo Express, Monroe, Detroit Metro or Willow Run or other airports about spraying with a drone nearby. Fifth is the contact DTE about any drones near Fermi 2. Years ago, I was contacted by the FBI inquiring if any farmers had made aerial spray applications near either power plant the day before the call. Next, MDARD requires that all pesticide application equipment be calibrated at least once a year. The turbulence from the drones’ propellers can affect spray droplet penetration into the crop canopy. Dr. Erdal Ozkan of Ohio State has an excellent article in the C.O.R.N. Newsletter: 2023-05 and has a publication FABE-540 entitles “Drones for Spraying Pesticides – Opportunities and Challenges.” A free PDF version of this publication is available at: we are now in meteorological spring, people start thinking more about outdoors and lawns. Scotts Company from Ohio has some top spring lawn care tips. First is to tune up the mower and sharpen the blade(s). Clean up the yard of debris and rake out the dead grass for the compost pile or garden. The main early season weed is crabgrass, a perennial that needs to be controlled before the topsoil reaches 60ºF or just before forsythia blooms. If reseeding bare or thin areas, make sure to keep the mower off this area until the young grass seedlings are over three inches. Mowing high is a great recommendation anyway and one MSU Turf Specialists say will help crowd out weeds without using pesticides. Dandelions tend to be a later spring weed and can be controlled with a combination of broadleaf products or included with a weed and feed granular application. Likewise, overwintering grubs tend to be a later spring pest as they chew of grass and other plant roots. Although you can identify grubs by looking at the hair pattern on the rear end with a 10x hand lens, most people don’t do this and all but one are annual grubs that may require attention in spring before they pupate into beetles and again later fall as the beetles’ newly hatched grubs emerge and begin the feed. Homeowners need to read and carefully follow all label directions of fertilizers and pesticides.