UGA’s aggressive education program pays off with reduced drift

soybean sprayer
About 15 factors go into controlling drift, including spray nozzle selection, spray pressure, sprayer speed and boom height—photo courtesy University of Georgia

A two-year effort by the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension that involved aggressive education has paid off with a 65 percent reduction in complaints about off-target pesticide applications.

“No grower wants (their pesticides to) drift,” UGA Extension weed specialist Stanley Culpepper said in a news release. “I’ve said it a million times. The best way for Extension to help our growers eliminate drift is by providing them the latest research data on tactics and approaches they can implement to help them achieve their goal.”

Culpepper, along with Associate Dean for Extension Laura Perry Johnson, partnered with the Georgia Department of Agriculture in 2014 to present research-based pesticide application information to growers, Extension agents, consultants and other industry representatives.

In addition to classroom training, UGA Extension implemented one-on-one training for farmers and applicators.

“These one-on-one trainings focus on making on-target pesticide applications, protecting endangered species, protecting pollinators and implementing sound weed resistance management programs, all critical to long-term family farm sustainability,” Culpepper says.

Their efforts continued this season with classes that focused on auxin herbicide applications. The auxin family includes dicamba and 2,4-D.

This season, many cotton and soybean producers plan to plant varieties that have been genetically modified to resist glyphosate or glufosinate along with dicamba or 2,4-D.

Research has identified about 15 factors that need to be considered to effectively management off-target pesticide movement. They include spray nozzle, spray pressure, sprayer speed and boom height.

Reining in drift becomes even more important in states like Georgia that have diverse cropping systems. High-value row crops, such as cotton, peanuts and corn may be grown next to more than 33 vegetable crops including watermelon, tomatoes and bell peppers.

“The most important factor in reducing off-target herbicide issues is an understanding of the sensitivity of the crops or plants that surround the applicator when the application is being made,” Culpepper says. “If you apply a product, and the plants in close proximity are extremely sensitive, then you’re much more vulnerable to a problem.”

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