As a result of two years of aggressive training to improve on-target agricultural pesticide applications, the number of pesticide drift complaints received by University of Georgia Cooperative Extension has gone down 65 percent, according to UGA Extension weed specialist Stanley Culpepper.
“No grower wants (their pesticides to) drift. 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 said.
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 agricultural clientele. Their mission continues this year.
“The education our specialists and agents are providing is invaluable. Georgia growers need this information to make better decisions and to understand the dangers of pesticide drift,” Johnson said. “In two years, the drift complaints have reduced by 65 percent. That shows that our education program is working.”
Keeping pesticides on target and off neighboring fields and gardens became one of Extension’s priorities. Research identified some 15 factors that need to be considered to effectively manage off-target pesticide movement, including the spray nozzle, spray pressure, spray speed and the height of the boom above the target.
“Georgia is arguably more prone to have drift issues than many other areas because of its diverse agricultural landscape. High-value row crops like cotton, peanuts and corn are widely grown, as are more than 33 vegetable crops like watermelons, tomatoes and bell peppers,” Culpepper said.
Culpepper believes that all involved deserve credit for the huge decrease in complaints, from the Extension specialists and agents delivering the education to the growers implementing the practices in the field.
“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 said. “If you apply a product, and the plants in close proximity are extremely sensitive, then you’re much more vulnerable to a problem.”
In addition to the past two years of classroom training, UGA Extension is implementing one-on-one training for farmers and applicators, a historically effective Extension educational approach.
“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 said.