With seeding wrapped up a few weeks ago the focus on the Richardson farm has shifted to spraying, which much is more than simply driving across a field indiscriminately sprinkling a helpful mixture on a crop. It’s all about increasing yields and making sure the crop is healthy. There’s a rather precise recipe for spraying that requires the right temperature, the right winds and the right time in a crop’s life cycle. I got to ride with Jim and pick his mind as we sprayed two quarter sections of wheat.
If you’ve ever been down wind of a giant waterfall or an inner city splash park, you’ll know that falling water and wind don’t exactly behave well together. Spraying a crop with such fine water particles demands very little wind and as such the majority of spraying is done early in the morning or the early evening when there is minimal wind. The concern with windy conditions is that the spray may reach an undesired target, particularly a different crop in close proximity. An herbicide designed for use on wheat may be harmful to a neighbouring canola crop. It is possible to change the “coarseness” of spray and a coarser spray is less susceptible to drift, but may not provide adequate coverage.
One means of combating the unwanted drift of spray is keeping the point of origin as close to the ground as possible. With the introduction of auto-boom height controller this is easier than ever. It was amazing to watch the booms of the sprayer raise and lower as they automatically adjusted to the contour of the field’s terrain. I can’t imagine having to spray a crop without such a helpful piece of technology.
The goal of spraying is generally to eliminate weeds, fungus and pests, and the success of this is impacted by the crop’s age. The age of a crop is typically measured in days since emergence and leaf number. Spray too early or too late in a crop’s life and weeds will out-compete the crop. For example, spraying a canola crop at seven days after emergence will result in higher yields than spraying at 17 days after emergence.
What surprised me most was how precise spraying is. Jim very carefully uses the right amount of ingredient, which is surprisingly small, and the majority of his tank is filled with water.
As I’m writing this a few days after having visited the farm the Richardson’s are likely done spraying. The sprayer travels nearly three times faster than a tractor pulling a drill and seeder. This means the the 5,600 acres that took a few weeks for the Richardson’s to seed can be sprayed in just a number of days.
I’m looking forward to my next visit to the Richardson farm, which should be bailing hay.