Fleet of cropdusters drops payload on corn to boost yield and economy
Posted: Friday, July 2, 2010 5:55 am
Why all this low-level flying over cornfields? What is that stuff those little planes are spraying on mile after mile of tall dark green tassel-topped corn? What is the purpose of it all?
The “stuff” is fungicides and pesticides. The purpose is to control disease in corn. And there’s one other purpose of paramount importance.
“You can get a yield bump of about 15 bushels per acre by doing this,” said Phil Higdon of Union City.
He is a representative of Syngenta Crop Protection, a worldwide corporation based in Greensboro, N.C.
He has set up a temporary “shop” in a hangar at Everett-Stewart Regional Airport, where his ground crew of several young men mix chemicals for a fleet of six cropduster planes that answer calls for air service to cornfields far and wide in northwest Tennessee and southwestern Kentucky.
He said it takes about an hour for a cropduster to apply its load of 450 gallons of chemicals and then return to refuel and reload.
“We have (Larry) Russell Flying Service, based here in Union City,” he said. “And (Scott) Rainey Air Service, based in Obion, and (George) Young Air Service of Oak Ridge, La.
“We began local spraying two weeks ago. We expect to finish up in three or four days.”
But how does a pilot know which field is which? How does he know he’s found the right field to work?
“They fly off GPS (global positioning system), longitude and latitude, with field maps,” Higdon said. “Each pilot carries a field map with him. He has a satellite system he programs into his plane. It’s very high-tech and computerized. It gets the job done.”
Higdon said the influx of cropduster planes not only gives a boost to corn yield per acre, it also boosts the local economy.
“I have an estimate of it, on a regional basis, which is where we’re flying right now,” he said. “It’s a local impact of between $1.5 million and $2 million. That counts the chemical products, flying the planes, lodging in motels, eating at local restaurants.”
And what about the current quality of tasseled corn? It looks good, he said, “but it sure could use some rain.”
Published in The Messenger 7.1.10