It's safe to say that many growers are pretty dependent on aerial applicators each year for delivering necessary crop protection chemicals. After all, pests such as Colorado potato beetles, weeds and nematodes aren't really concerned with whether or not you get a good crop. One of the most effective ways to get that crop protection to your crops is obviously an airplane; however, with it comes lots of issues to manage: what if there's too much wind? No wind at all? How close should they fly to the ground? What if there's a river nearby? What about all the rules and regulation hoops applicators are forced to jump through-with more hoops coming each year?
In April, I met up with Idaho aerial applicators in Jackpot, Nev., to observe their annual fly-over clinic. The annual clinic is an opportunity for applicators to not only figure out how to straighten their spray nozzles, but also to earn more credits from the Idaho Department of Agriculture to enable them to re-certify their professional applicator licenses periodically, which they need to do every two years.
It was a simple but necessary process: fly over a string stretched between runways three times and spray with pink dye, then patiently wait for the analysis.
I was grounded for the first part of the morning, taking pictures of the men at work until John Cooper of Ag Air in Burley invited me up in his plane to give me a little bit of a feel for what it's like-and how much their bodies adjust to the constant change in g-force.
Luckily for me, I was so focused on taking pictures that the dips, climbs and turns didn't start affecting me until the end. I was proud of myself for not losing my breakfast, but I could tell my skin color was whiter than it was before I climbed into the plane.
The breeze was mild as the day began, running no more than 10 mph in gusts, but by 10 o'clock that had changed. Wind speed had increased enough that dust was blowing everywhere, and it was more difficult for carrying out the testing.
The applicators then met in a Cactus Petes meeting room to hear helpful suggestions from various speakers, including chemical company reps, an Idaho Department of Agriculture program manager, and the applicator guru himself, Dr. Dennis Gardisser, a recently retired professor from the University of Arkansas.
The two hours of speakers technically fulfilled needed credits toward re-certification, but the questions the applicators had were in true form-they weren't just there to get credits out of the way; they were there to improve by being in better compliance with increasing rules and regulations while at the same time delivering the product growers depend on to safeguard their crops.
In this issue, you'll find the report on that aerial applicator clinic, as well as an article from William H. Bohl of the University of Idaho about how to minimize tuber bruising-from before harvest to vine kill to post harvest.
Even though no potato products have been implicated in any contamination incidents, the industry is proactively demonstrating to consumers good agricultural and handling practices. In an effort to help growers meet Good Agricultural Practices, we've included an article by Lynn Woodell and Nora Olsen from the University of Idaho Extension. It gives tips on where to find the manual online and how to fill that puppy out-adapting generic guidelines for all produce industries to specifically apply to potatoes. With all the tools in hand, you'll be able to pass a visit by an auditor with no problems.
So go ahead and dive on in. It'll be a fun ride, as long as you don't lose your breakfast.
We at Potato Grower wish you good luck with the summer growing season!