To those interested in learning about pesticide applications and methods you might find this helpful in understanding all the things we do before spraying is necessary. The guidelines are no different for organic or conventional farming. I’m just sharing this because, I do this for a living and I’m passionate about educating the public about why American products should be championed and are so much safer than other imported products.
A Pest Control Adviser (PCA), who is required to have a 4 year college degree or enough college credits combined with experience, is licensed by the state of California to lawfully write a recommendation of a spray application. This is important…..because these people are highly trained in knowledge of both the pests and all chemicals used in both organic and conventional crops. They visit every single field they monitor weekly or sometimes bi-weekly. They monitor everything. They look for plant diseases, pests, weeds, anything and everything that may cause damage to that crop.
Only when pests, disease or weeds get past the point where it can cause harm, do the PCA and grower talk about options and how to treat.
Once a material is decided upon it must be go through a series of questions from the grower and PCA. Every product has different label uses. For example, Product A may say you cannot harvest your crop for 14 days after applying the product. Product B may say you can harvest within 7 days, but product B may be harmful to beneficial insects, so Product C is looked at. The grower may harvest in 7 days and the Product B, works in that timeline. But Product C has a 10 day no harvest window but is gentle on beneficial pests. In my 20 years of spraying, almost all growers I know will choose Product C even if it pushes harvest back a few days. There are so many, many, different labels and pesticide chemistry that the grower and PCA must be aware of and have thoroughly discussed before even calling me for application.
Once I’ve been called in, I get what we call a recommendation. This is like a doctor’s prescription for the field and I must follow it like a pharmacist. Any variation of that recommendation can cause big legal issues. I, being an applicator, must have passed tests from the State of California and I must take continuing education to keep my license valid. I must submit to the state my insurance which is mandated that I have coverage for not only the job I’m spraying but I must posses insurance for the crops that are surrounding the treated field. If I don’t show the proper insurance to the state I cannot be hired to spray.
Once I receive the recommendation, it is my responsibility to check for bees or other sensitive crops down wind from me. If I see either, I must make proper arrangements. If it is bees, I’m required to call the bee keeper and give them a 48 hour window for them to decide what they need to do. If they give me the thumbs then I can proceed.
If my job is spraying fresh produce, I must have already have the water I use to spray with tested by an independent laboratory that will certify that water being used has no pathogens that can cause contamination from things like E. Coli. Once all these things things are checked off, I’m free to spray. When the time comes to enter the field I must monitor wind speed, inversion layers, and all weather related issues than can cause a poor spraying job.
Once my job is complete I must submit, to both the county Ag offices and the grower, a pesticide completion report. In it will have all the details of what took place. I have to include the materials and their individual EPA numbers, harvest intervals, wind speed, temperatures, soil types, the rate of product per acre, the rate of water per acre, and so on.
This kind of paper trail, attention to food safety, worker and employee safety, environmental concerns, does not happen with the food you eat that is imported from other countries. This is not a debate about Organics vs. Conventional, both get treated with materials and both get the same consideration when it is time to treat a field. I’m just sharing this to educate the public of the misconception that Ag just sprays when ever they feel like it. Truthfully, every grower that calls me is not happy because they are spending money they could have in their pocket and they are using it to hire me 🙂 So they try every option available to them first, to avoid hiring me.
Below is one example of the many ways that farmers, PCA’S, and guys like me can work together to find ways to use less products and use them in an efficient way:
I recently sprayed a Cantaloupe field. And like I said earlier I have to check for bees and the products I’m using are soft on bees but out of caution and respect for the hives I will spray at night while bees are in their hives.
The method of spraying is called “Banding”. What I have to do is measure the average width of the plant and spray just that area. So the Cantaloupes are planted in the center of an 80″ wide bed. The recommendation is that I spray a width of just 20 inches. But I also have been given leeway if I determine if a wider width is necessary due to the growing plant. But what ever the width is we will only use material for that space. We will not broadcast onto places that don’t need it. This type of spraying happens a lot and can save nearly 75% of materials that would have been used by broadcasting.
Thankfully, our computer systems just need the info of row spacing and treated space and the machine and computer will automatically adjust. Additionally, these sprayers work to automatically control pressure and volume and the speed driven so the very most accurate application takes place.
Erik Wilson is a farmer and the owner of Erik Wilson Custom Spraying in Dos Palos, CA. He is also one of the co-founders of My Job Depends on Ag.