That rather distant slit looking image you see at the bottom of the picture is a crop duster plane heading south over a farmer’s field at the southwest corner of Brasher and South Sunset in Roswell New Mexico. Some of the most fascinating things in life happen when we are out and about and I was very lucky to capture this shot of the crop duster probably dropping pesticide or herbicide on the farmer’s crop field. Crop dusters are, in the long run, a much more cost-effective and efficient way to distribute seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, and weed killers than the time prohibitive manual spreading methods.
The following Magic Yellow article provides a brief history and function of Crop dusting in the United States.
Crop Dusting, Seeding and Spraying
Crop dusting in the United States began in 1921. Farmers generally dumped a hopper full of pesticide onto an orchard from a plane. Aerial applications are still important. Most commonly, small, fixed wing aircrafts are used. However, for high precision applications, companies may resort to helicopters. Planes are used to drop seeds, pesticides and fertilizer on plants. Both insecticides and herbicides are also used. In the early days, the chemicals were put in a drum or a makeshift hopper and simply thrown out of the plane onto field or orchard. Nowadays, specialist crop dusting equipment is used. Some standard small planes are used, but there are also crafts that are built specifically for crop dusting. A spray system is attached to the underside of the wings, through which chemicals from a tank are directed. Because of the slow speeds required, some elderly biplanes remain in service, advantaged by their low stall speed. Spraying from the air has proved to be the best way to achieve an even distribution of pesticides over a field. Seeds of plants, such as alfalfa and wheat, may be dropped. Grass seed also responds well to aerial spraying. However, most crop dusting involves pesticides and other chemicals. For example, a carefully timed spraying of fungicide can prevent corn tassel fungus, which can significantly reduce yields. Crop dusters control weeds, bugs and other pests. They provide a valuable service to agriculture and large scale horticulture. In fact, they are a key part of our ability to have fresh fruits and vegetables year round. Maintenance of crop duster machinery, including planes, is also important. In addition, great safety precautions have to be taken. A modern crop duster uses a global positioning system to ensure that they are on target and not dropping their load of chemicals into a canal or other water source.