Herbicide Buying Tips: Learn From Past Wins and Losses

Account for what’s worked and buy smart to sustain herbicide efficacy.

Every growing season presents its own unique challenges. A weed that hammers a crop one year may not make so much as a minor appearance in the same fields the following year. With such variability in potential weed pressures from year to year, herbicide availability may be affected, making it important to know when and what product to buy to be prepared for the next weed outbreak.

In today’s tight grain marketplace, efficiency with crop inputs like herbicide applications is a high priority for many row crop and small grain farmers. Any good herbicide strategy elevates preparedness and enables the farmer to act quickly when weed pressures pop up. Mother Nature always plays a large role in what weeds will cause headaches each year, but there are a few ways to be ready by focusing on the variables that you can control.

What has worked in the past?

The process starts before you’re even to the point of making a herbicide purchase, and it begins by looking back and relying on production records from previous years. Are there any patterns to when specific weeds were problematic in your fields? Look closely at the previous year’s data; in some cases, weed seeds can overwinter and become a problem across more than one growing season, according to Iowa State University Extension Field Agronomist Meaghan Anderson.

“Rather than just falling back on old habits, analyze your [herbicide] program closely to look for improvements for future years,” Anderson said in a university report. “Surviving weeds from this year will affect weed pressure in next year’s crops. Identifying this season’s management successes and failures will make weed management and herbicide purchase decisions easier this winter.”

When is the best time to buy? 

Taking this deeper look at your herbicide program from year to year can help with not only what you buy, but when you buy it. Though it may be old habit to wait until specific weed pressures develop before you purchase the necessary herbicide product, University of Illinois Crop Science Specialist and Weed Scientist Aaron Hager encourages farmers to make earlier, more informed purchase decisions based on field-specific production data. Doing so typically offers cost savings over buying product during the growing season, especially if the weed pressure is more geographically widespread.

“Usually, fall purchases offer a bit better price compared to in-season purchase,” Hager said.

Environmental conditions can also give you a feel for what specific types of products will perform best. Knowing your soil types, as well as having a basic idea of the range of weather conditions your crop may face next year are helpful in determining which herbicide products should perform best in your fields. In addition to any weed pressures you faced this year, these variables can help nail down things such as herbicide mode of action in what you purchase in planning for next year’s crop.

“Weeds that are exposed to the herbicide can survive application for any number of reasons, and determining why is important for avoiding repeat problems. The main factors influencing the activity of preemergence herbicides are soil type and rainfall. Was the application rate appropriate for the soil type, or was rainfall adequate to activate the herbicide and make it available in the weed seed germination zone?” Anderson said. “Postemergence herbicides are influenced by many factors, including weed size, environmental conditions, spray additives and spray coverage. Spraying weeds that exceed the maximum size specified on the herbicide label is probably the number one cause of postemergence herbicide failures. Finally, weeds may survive due to the presence of herbicide resistance within the field. When resistance is just beginning to evolve within a field, escapes are usually found in discrete patches, and it is often possible to find surviving plants immediately adjacent to dead individuals of the same species.

What are other things to consider?

“The final step is to use this information to make decisions for next year. Surviving weeds may warrant a change in product or herbicide site of action, increased herbicide application rates or use of a more innovative approach, like a layered residual program,” Anderson added.

As with any crop protection product or mechanism, it’s best to scout your fields and take note of specific weed pressures you’ve faced. The best time to do so is in the middle of the growing season, Anderson said. It’s also important to pay close attention to herbicide labels to ensure you’re planning for and purchasing products that you can apply during the optimal treatment windows.

Do you have the right equipment to apply herbicide when it’s needed most? The right sprayer can go a long way to ensuring your herbicide applications are cost-effective and provide the weed control you need. Check out the features on the latest Apache Sprayer models to see which one is right for your operation.

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G&J Ag: Reintroducing Apache Sprayers to Southeast Missouri

Longtime dealers; maintenance technicians see Apache Sprayers as a good fit for variety of farm operations

A lot of farmers around Oak Ridge, Missouri, know Tim Johnson and Duane Green. And now, the business partners are bringing a familiar name back to the area’s machinery sector.

Johnson and Green operate and manage G&J Ag in Oak Ridge. The dealership and maintenance shop also sells and services equipment from MacDon, Demco, Unverferth, McFarlane, Bush Hog and McCormick and will be providing maintenance and repair for Apache Sprayers. Sales and parts inventory from Equipment Technologies dealership Southern Application Management in Batesville, Mississippi will also provide additional benefits to owners.

“We used to have an Apache Sprayers dealer here, and they sold well over the years. People here know the Apache Sprayers name,” Johnson said. “Duane and I have both built up quite a customer base here, so bringing Apache back to this area seemed like a good fit for everyone.”

Meeting growing producer needs

It’s a good time for G&J to add Apache Sprayers to its sales and service lineup. Consolidation in the machinery sector has created a resurgence in interest among producers in working with a dealer. That’s especially true with companies like G&J, with both Johnson and Green having decades of experience in sales and service, including previous experience with larger manufacturers.

“We’ve sold a lot of sprayers over the years,” Johnson said. “We are basically handling parts and service. We’re bringing in a dedicated technician and our ultimate goal is to keep him busy year-round with Apache Sprayers. We hope to bring a lot of Apache Sprayers to this part of the country.”

Why Apache Sprayers align with G&J customers

A few components and qualities of Apache Sprayers will be key to that kind of expansion among the wide range of farm size and crop mixes that characterizes the G&J customer base. Their customers, Green said, range from 500-20,000 acres, with many around 1,500-2,000 acres. Despite that size variability, the high spraying demand and common ground conditions make the light weight of Apache Sprayers a popular feature in row crop and cotton acres.

“Other sprayers are getting so heavy and you have 15 different controllers for the boom and other components,” Johnson said. “Apache Sprayers are straightforward, simple to maintain and farmers I talk to love their light weight and simplicity. We have a lot of ‘gumbo’ bottom ground where weight becomes a major concern. These machines work well in conditions like those.”

Adding Apache Sprayers will help Green and Johnson complete their lineup of key machinery for their customers.

“The Apache lineup is a really good fit for us,” Green said. “We have offered harvest and tillage equipment, so adding these sprayers is something we needed. We’re excited to bring them on.”

Want to learn more? Listen to real Apache Sprayer owners and their love for Apache Sprayers.

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Grauer Repair Service offers Oregon farmers the ‘simplistic elegance’ of Apache Sprayers

Family-owned Willamette Valley company becomes PNW region’s newest Apache Sprayers dealer.

Oregon’s Willamette Valley is world-renowned for Pinot Noir made from its more than 19,000 acres of vineyards in the area stretching from Portland to Eugene. The area is rich in agriculture beyond wine grapes with high volumes of filberts and grass crops — that means big business and high demand for ag sprayers as grasses require multiple passes through the field.

Grauer Repair Service in Sheridan, Oregon, is the newest Apache and Bruin Sprayers dealer in the Pacific Northwest, focusing primarily on supporting the region’s farmers working in the grass seed sector.

“Sprayers are running nine months out of the year here, mainly applying fungicides and growth regulators,” said Grauer Repair Service machinery sales and maintenance manager, Fraser Holmes. “We also fertilize at least twice a year, with different fertilizer products applied depending on the time of year.”

A family business

Grauer Repair Service is a family business started by longtime machinery service technician Dennis Grauer in 1987. Today, Grauer’s son, Travis, owns the company that Holmes describes as a “local, small customer-focused dealership.”

“We run hard. There are only seven of us, but our biggest advantage and something we prioritize is service,” Holmes said. “It’s a big buzzword around the industry, but for us, it’s not. It’s just how we operate.”

That was one of the reasons Grauer Repair Service initially gravitated toward Equipment Technologies (ET) as a company partner. Holmes saw the same commitment to service in the ET team that he and the Grauer family emphasize in how they serve their customers. The other reason: Apache Sprayers embody a few key characteristics Holmes said are important to their customers.

“The biggest thing our customers appreciate most about Apache Sprayers is their light weight. That’s huge for producers in this area. You can put bigger tires on an Apache and you won’t get bogged down and cause compaction,” Holmes explained. “Apache Sprayers are the lightest on the market by far, and that makes them a big win for our customers.”

‘Simplistic elegance’

Apache Sprayers also feature straightforward, simple controls which makes the machines a good fit for local farmers. Holmes expects as Grauer Repair Service introduces more customers to Apache Sprayers, they will embrace the machines’ features just as he has.

“If you purchase a competitor’s machine, there are so many controls and buttons in the cab that you’re never going to use in your life. An Apache Sprayer is simple, user-friendly and grower-oriented. They just have a simplistic elegance to them,” Holmes said. “We’re optimistic our customers will be drawn to those features as well.”

Learn more about the features and benefits of Apache Sprayers. Find your nearest dealer here.

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Unique Spraying Challenges in 2019

How to overcome unique spraying challenges.

So, you planted late. Now what?

Whether you planted late due to the weather or didn’t get your crops all in the ground at all this spring, you’re likely going to face some unique weed control and spraying challenges as your crops race toward maturation and the highest potential yield.

If you were able to get your crop planted — or most of them — some acres were likely not sown during the optimal planting window. If that was the case, your weed control strategies may need to change as your crops mature, according to University of Nebraska Extension Weed Management Educator Chris Procter.

When using any herbicide containing atrazine, for example, you can only apply that product when the corn is 12 inches tall or shorter. Applying later than that could mean significant crop damage. Glyphosate can be applied to corn up to 30 inches tall. Post-emergence herbicide applications like these are effective. But they require different management than those earlier in the season, a timeframe that may have closed before many late-planting farmers were able to get into the field to spray, thus causing spraying challenges.

“Even the best weed management plans sometimes fail due to circumstances outside our control. Weeds like marestail, waterhemp and Palmer amaranth can be particularly difficult to control mid-season. For each of these weeds, an aggressive strategy to manage escaped weeds is critical. If the area of escaped weeds is relatively small, a target herbicide application or hand rogueing is the best option to prevent the weeds from infesting a much larger area the following year,” Procter said in a university report. “Extra effort in year one when the problem is relatively small will save a lot of time and money in subsequent years.”

In addition to managing weed escapes later on in the growing season, each product’s residual effect must be accounted for as it relates to both your neighbor and your specific crop rotation, and the possibility you could be causing problems for next year.

“When making postemergence herbicide applications, crop safety is an important consideration as is the potential for off-target injury to a neighboring field,” Procter said. “When making in-season applications, consider crop rotation restrictions as fall cover crops or spring rotational crops may be affected, depending on the herbicide selected.”

Late to the field? Fine-tune your herbicide applications with our experts tips.

Didn’t get to plant at all?

What if you had to file Prevented Planting (PP) claims with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Risk Management Agency (USDA-RMA)? You may not have a crop in the ground in some of your fields, but that doesn’t mean you can forget about weed control this year. Winter or summer annuals allowed to produce seeds will only complicate weed control next year if left untreated, leading to even more spraying challenges, according to University of Illinois Extension Plant Protection and Weed Science Specialist Aaron Hager.

“Any weed seed produced in 2019 will add to future weed control costs. The old weed science adage ‘One year’s seedling equals seven years weeding’ reinforces the need to adequately manage weeds on prevented planting acres,” Hager said in a university report. “Many species of winter annual weeds already have flowered and soon will produce seed. Additionally, many summer annual weed species have emerged and are growing rapidly. We suggest the focus of weed management on prevented planting acres should be on summer annual weed species. Several options exist that could be used singly or in combination to keep weeds under control.”

There are a number of options for knocking down weeds in a field where you’ve filed a PP claim. Tillage and mowing are historically popular options but less effective when soils are wet, or weeds are larger. Cover crops can help limit the growth of any summer annual weeds but require tillage or an early herbicide application prior to planting.

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Testimonial: The AS640 Makes a Tough Year Easier

The AS640 sprayer
Months of excessive moisture ups the ante for the new AS640.

Kenneth Hiser grows corn, soybeans and wheat in the “dead center of Kentucky,” near the small town of Big Clifty. He’s faced a challenge that is common for many farmers in 2019: Excessive moisture starting in early spring and persisting through the early summer has made it difficult for him to get his crops planted and sprayed in the “normal” timeframe.

“We farm about 2,000 acres and will probably spray our wheat three times this year,” said Hiser, who purchased an Apache AS640 in December 2018 to cover his spraying needs, which also include two passes through his corn acres and three passes through his soybeans.

The spring weather challenge followed an equally soggy fall, when corn and soybean harvest meant a lot of mud and ruts. Normally a no-till farmer, Hiser spent much of the start to the 2019 growing season conducting vertical tillage to smooth out the ruts left after fall harvest.

On top of the rush to finish planting soybeans, Hiser found himself facing rust disease issues in his wheat crop in mid-June, necessitating a full fungicide program for his crop.

Features that matter in a wet year

Though so much of the last 8-10 months have been a rush on his farm, spawned by repeated heavy rains that have kept him out of the field at key times, Hiser is more confident in his spraying operations with his new AS640. This is the third Apache Sprayer the former Spra-Coup operator has owned in the last decade. He previously owned an Apache AS715 and Apache AS720.

“What I liked about the AS640 is that it’s lighter and I could get the bigger tires on it,” Hiser said. “We have a lot of wet ground, and it’s on the sandy side. The weight of the machine helps it go places where you wouldn’t think it’d be able to go in the field.”

Kenneth Hiser from Kentucky owns an AS640

The Apache AS640 is the lightest self-propelled sprayer made by Equipment Technologies, weighing in under 17,000 lbs.


The maneuverability and coverage potential the AS640’s light weight provides persists despite the machine being two-wheel drive. While Hiser said he was originally a bit skeptical about the absence of four-wheel drive, he noted that he’s not had one occasion when he would have needed the heavier, more expensive drivetrain.


“I actually believe this machine will go anywhere a bigger four-wheel drive sprayer will go,” Hiser said. “Even though it’s a two-wheel drive machine, it will go just about anywhere. It’s amazing. It’ll just go.”

Hiser typically operates each Apache Sprayer he’s purchased for about three growing seasons before he’s ready for a trade-in. The combination of in-field performance, as well as the machines’ simplicity, will have Hiser looking to purchase another Apache Sprayer when he’s ready to trade in his new AS640.

“I’m 65 years old, and I like simplicity. These Apache machines were such a step up from the old Spra-Coupes, but still not as expensive as bigger machines,” he said. “Three years from now, I’ll be looking at a new Apache.”


Learn more about the Apache AS640. Ready to get serious? Locate your nearest dealer, or schedule a demo!

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Herbicide Resistance: 5 Things to Know

Know your weeds, herbicides for effective control, minimal resistance.

Herbicide resistance is costly and difficult to control. Once herbicide-resistant weeds are in your fields, they necessitate major changes in crop management and continued vigilance so they won’t return. Understanding herbicide resistance is a good first step in employing management strategies to prevent the conditions conducive to its development.

Though glyphosate resistance covers many of the headlines today — with 15 weed species confirmed to be resistant to the common herbicide in the last two decades in the U.S. — weeds can develop resistance to any product or mode of action (MOA), especially if that chemical is not applied according to label specifications. In recent years, weeds like waterhemp, Palmer amaranth and kochia have developed resistance to multiple herbicides, raising alarm for farmers and chemical applicators to become more vigilant about weed control.

A strong weed control strategy in your fields starts with a comprehensive understanding of its causes and mechanics. Here are five important things to think about when diagnosing the efficacy of your weed control strategy.

1. Susceptibility, tolerance and resistance

Though no weed is desirable, if you have them, you want them to be susceptible. Herbicide susceptibility, according to North Carolina State University Extension Pesticide Safety Education Specialist Wayne Buhler, is defined as “the degree to which a plant is subject to injury or death due to a particular herbicide.”

Herbicide-tolerant weeds are less susceptible but can be managed by the right herbicides, unlike resistant ones, which have adapted and have no susceptibility. Knowing whether you’re facing tolerance or resistance will go a long way to determining the changes necessary to restore effective weed management.

“Herbicide resistance causes changes in the composition of the population because of resistant biotypes,” Buhler said. “At very low frequencies in the weed population, resistant biotypes build up when the herbicide to which those individuals are resistant is used repeatedly.” 

2. Herbicide modes of action

Repeated successive applications of the same chemical — or different products with the same mode of action (MOA) — is a common cause of developing herbicide tolerance and resistance in weeds. Knowing the MOA (here’s one good source with some common products and MOAs) of what you’re applying is important to a strong weed control strategy. If you detect you have weeds that are developing a tolerance to what you’re applying, knowing its MOA is the first step to determining how you can adjust your strategy to integrate a different MOA and sustain overall control.

“Mode of action describes the plant processes affected by the herbicide, or the entire sequence of events that results in death of susceptible plants. It includes absorption, translocation, metabolism and interaction at the site of action. Target site of action or mechanism of action is the exact location of inhibition, such as interfering with the activity of an enzyme within a metabolic pathway,” Buhler said. “Herbicides are organized by families that share a common chemical structure and express similar herbicidal activity on plants. Of the hundreds of different herbicides on the market today, many of them work in exactly the same way or, in other words, have the same mechanism of action. Fewer than 30 plant-growth mechanisms are affected by current herbicides.”

3. Different resistance types

In some cases, weeds may have developed resistance to more than one MOA. Both multiple-resistance and cross-resistance are a result of weed plants adapting to different weed control strategies that lose efficacy over time.

“Multiple-resistance is the phenomenon in which a weed is resistant to two or more herbicides having different mechanisms of action. Multiple-resistance can happen if an herbicide is used until a weed population displays resistance and then another herbicide is used repeatedly and the same weed population also becomes resistant to the second herbicide, and so on. Multiple-resistance can also occur through the transfer of pollen between sexually compatible individuals that are carrying different resistant genes,” Buhler said.

“Cross-resistance occurs when the genetic trait that made the weed population resistant to one herbicide also makes it resistant to other herbicides with the same mechanism of action. Cross-resistance is more common than multiple-resistance, but multiple resistance is potentially of greater concern because it reduces the number of herbicides that can be used to control the weed in question.”

4. Potential weed population shifts

No field has just one invasive species. Knowing the mix of weed pressures you face, how that mix changes over time, and the overall herbicide susceptibility of those weeds can help determine the most effective chemical to apply. Often, that decision is a moving target, making it important to continue monitoring how weed populations ebb and flow.

“A weed population shift is a change over time in the relative abundance of the species comprising a weed population. With the repeated use of an herbicide, certain species may become dominant due to selection for those that are tolerant. In some cases, weed shifts can also occur when a ‘low’ rate is used repeatedly and more difficult to control species may become dominant. These populations are not herbicide resistant,” Buhler said. “For example, say Species A and Species B are susceptible to a particular herbicide while Species C is tolerant of that herbicide. Species A and Species B both originally comprise 49% of the population while Species C makes up only 2% of the population. With repeated use of that particular herbicide, the percentage of the population comprised of Species A and Species B decreases over time while Species C makes up a greater percentage of the population.”

5. Machinery’s role in herbicide-resistant weeds

On top of the chemical and genetic bases for developing herbicide resistance in invasive plants, there’s also a mechanical component. Things like the order in which fields are treated can create resistance issues. That’s why it’s important to know where you face the highest resistance potential, as sometimes the movement of plant materials from field-to-field can help resistance develop faster.

“If the resistant weed is confined to relatively small areas, take steps to prevent seed production. If the weed is still small enough to control with other herbicides, treat the affected spots. Do not let resistant weeds go to seed,” Buhler said. “Avoid moving seed or vegetative propagules to other fields and farms. Use a power washer or compressed air to help remove seed and plant parts from any equipment used in the field. If any fields have a history of herbicide-resistant weeds, use farm equipment in those fields last.”

Manage to prevent resistance

There are a few key steps to reducing the likelihood that weeds in your fields will develop herbicide resistance. First and foremost, rotating herbicides with different modes of action will prevent weeds from developing tolerance, and later resistance. Sometimes, though, that’s easier said than done. If a specific herbicide offers strong broad-spectrum or residual control, it may not be feasible to switch to another product. If that’s the case, resistance can be prevented by timing applications differently.

“In many cases the herbicide continues to work on a large number of weeds and is still the best choice for overall weed control. If the decision is made to continue using the herbicide, there are several options. Use proactive weed control (pre-plant or pre-emergence) with an herbicide tank mixture or pre-pack having at least one mechanism of action that is known to control the resistant weed,” Buhler said. “Use post-emergence herbicides only in tank mixtures or pre-packs with at least one mechanism of action that is known to control the resistant weed. Any of these options provides at least one additional MOA that will help to prevent further spread of the resistant weed. In addition, other weed control tools should be used to complement the MOA that is still active on the resistant weed so that undue selection pressure is not placed on the additional MOA.”

Have more questions about managing your chemical applications? Learn more on our Ask the Application Specialists page.

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Late to the field? Your herbicide application rates may be affected

How a late start will affect application rates

How timing affects herbicide application rates

A wet start to crop planting and growing seasons — like the one farmers in many parts of the country have faced this year — has created several herbicide application issues that could lead to weed control challenges later on.

Excessive moisture in the form of both snow and rain turned fertile fields into lakes earlier this spring, with some areas facing massive and costly devastation to land and crop infrastructure. Beyond that high-profile damage, excess moisture has cranked up the pressure for farmers to get everything done in the field — fertilizer applications, tillage, planting and herbicide applications — before the clock runs out.

The good news is that equipment and technology are boosting productivity in the field for many field operations; for example, farmers can plant a lot more corn in a tighter time window today than even just a few years ago. But in many cases, Mother Nature ultimately decides how much work will get done and how fruitful those labors will be.


A pair of weed control problems 

Those conditions have caused one of two weed control problems for farmers entering summer. First, farmers were pressed for time and were unable to get pre-emergence herbicides applied before planting. Secondly, others encountered wet conditions after planting when post-emergence herbicides would normally be applied.

If you’ve faced a general delay in applying herbicide, it’s likely your crop — and the weeds you’re targeting — will be further along developmentally. This will make it critical to account for that development through scouting and checking herbicide labels before turning a wheel on your sprayer.

“Wet weather can result in weeds and crops that are larger and more advanced in growth stage than anticipated,” according to a report from Ohio State University Weed Management Specialist and Professor Mark Loux. “The larger crop is primarily a problem in corn, where a more advanced growth stage can start to limit herbicide options.”


Changing products and rates

Rates may need to be adjusted based on the size of both your crop and invasive weeds, as well as any correlated changes in plant uptake of applied chemicals.

A late, rain-delayed start typically requires increased rates of herbicide application, especially in Roundup Ready and LibertyLink fields, and some grasses that would ordinarily be controlled well by glyphosate alone may require an additional clethodim product, Loux said. In cases with high populations of giant ragweed and other weeds that have shown signs of developing herbicide resistance, it’s advisable to apply the maximum recommended rate. Also consider mixing other products labeled for controlling weeds like giant ragweed to add to a full-rate glyphosate application.

Though he recommends full rates and potentially adding a residual product if applying herbicides late, especially in soybeans, Loux said it’s important to observe the required re-crop interval. This will prevent any unintended residual adverse effects on next year’s crop.

“While we advocate strongly for the use of residual herbicides in soybeans, the need for full rates of residual premix products applied in late June is debatable. Some residual herbicide labels specify a 10-month or greater interval between application and corn planting next year; and we are through the period of peak weed emergence, so the residual herbicide activity does not have to last as long, assuming that post herbicides will be applied,” Loux said. “In addition, soybeans grow more rapidly when planted in late June compared with early May, so there is less time until a crop canopy develops to help with weed control.”

In general, it’s critically important in examining both primary and alternate pre- and post-emergence herbicide options to closely read product labels to ensure you’re both applying a product that will be effective and preventing any unintended residual effects that could harm crop output potential in the short and long term.

If you’re facing wet spraying conditions this spring, here’s more help to make sure you’re spraying the right way.

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Wear PPE to Spray Safe

The chemical label is your friend — determine the right PPE to spray safe.

Anyone accustomed to spraying herbicides knows the job has inherent dangers, especially when working with chemicals with a higher toxicity. Ensuring you’re protected for the job is essential before beginning any spraying task.

In many situations, experienced operators know the necessity of personal protective equipment (PPE). The right clean, well-maintained PPE labeled for specific use to protect the most likely points of entry into the body — skin, mouth and respiratory system — should be made available for every operator who works directly with herbicides and pesticides. It’s not only important to have the equipment with you, but also to wear it according to specific instructions to ensure you’re safe from any potential chemical injury.

“It is very important to select the correct PPE,” according to a report from North Carolina State University Extension Pesticide Safety Education Specialist Wayne Buhler. “More is not necessarily better in the case of PPE. Select the PPE required by the label of the chemical you’re applying.”

Understand chemical-resistant versus water-resistant.

When selecting your PPE, it’s important to understand a few key terms on product labels.

If a PPE garment is “chemical-resistant,” that doesn’t mean it’s completely impervious to infiltration by many common chemicals. How strong that resistance is depends on the specific product being applied.

Correct selection of PPE is the first critical step. Follow the pesticide product label carefully when certain types of gloves, respirators, and/or other PPE are specified. For example, a specific type of glove material may be highly chemical-resistant to some pesticide products but not others. A respirator suitable for one task may not be suitable for another.

“A ‘water-resistant’ material is different than a ‘chemical-resistant’ material,” he said. “‘Chemical-resistant’ PPE is ‘material that allows no measurable movement of the pesticide being used through the material during use.’ However, ‘chemical-resistant’ aprons, coveralls, eye protection, footwear, gloves, and headgear are not equally resistant to all pesticides, under all conditions, and for the same length of time.”

Secure the right gear.

Depending on what exactly you’re doing when working around chemicals and preparing your Apache Sprayer this season, here is a checklist to run through in preparing the right PPE to spray safe. Check your chemical label to see which of the following components are required for each product and operation:

  • Aprons
  • Coveralls
  • Eye protection
  • Footwear
  • Gloves
  • Headgear
  • Respirator

Here’s more on how to select the right PPE.

Get it all in working order.

It’s important not only to have the right safety gear, but to make sure it’s inspected and fitted for each individual user. When using various PPE items together, make sure they are in good working order and will perform their safety functions as a collective system.

“It is very important to select the correct PPE. Just as important, the PPE must be working correctly every time you use it, either alone or in combination with other PPE. When several pieces of PPE are used together, they must not interfere with each other. For example, protective goggles must not interfere with the operation of a respirator,” Buhler said. “Before and after every use, check for any type of deterioration of or damage to all the components, seams, etc. of the specific reusable PPE and, if necessary, dispose of it properly.”

See more ways to make sure you spray safe in the field this year.

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Reflecting on a decade of serving farmers

Patrick Casey talks information, customer service focus

He’s had what many in agriculture would consider an unconventional path to his leadership role with one of the fastest-growing sprayer manufacturers in North America. But Patrick Casey, who’s retiring this spring after almost a decade with Equipment Technologies (ET), has found a home with the maker of Apache Sprayers based on a shared commitment to farmers that’s evident every time he walks into his Mooresville, Indiana, office.

Casey gleaned his first exposure to crop production as a 10-year-old, when he observed a neighbor in North Andover, Massachusetts, operate a tractor on his vegetable operation. When Casey took his new position with ET and circled back into agriculture years later, he rediscovered an industry in which service and relationships between the manufacturer, dealer, and customer are incredibly important.

“If you want to work with an honorable group of people focused on doing the right things, this is a fabulous place to work,” Casey said.

Building a new system for growth

But he didn’t always feel that way. “I didn’t want to come here at first. Nobody was minding the information systems, and given the growth of the company, that was a problem,” Casey said. “When I got here, the IT staff was one person. But we knew that information was a critical asset just like people, investments in sprayer improvements and R&D, and we moved forward with that philosophy in mind.”

Casey worked with ET CEO Matt Hays in a previous position. So when Hays contacted him with a request in 2010, he was happy to help out his mentor and former colleague. Hays was building a leadership team and wanted Casey’s input on building information technology (IT) systems — an area of emphasis throughout his career since completing his studies in the Indiana University MBA program in 1977. Casey made a trip to Mooresville and was persuaded to join ET as vice president of IT. In retrospect, he knows he made the right choice.

“The focus of my work has not just been to make the trains run on time from an IT standpoint, but to use the information to move the needle on sales and open up new lines of business. Doing those things requires us to be acutely attentive to our customers, and it all relates back to customer service,” Casey said. “Using information to drive sprayer sales has been my primary focus, and that process involves working with sales reps, field staff, engineers and managers to find out how we could better spread the word about the best sprayers in North America.”

Uncommon strategies to grow sales, improve service

With that philosophy of service in mind, Casey has targeted his IT efforts toward a number of strategies that previously weren’t common in the sprayer sector, but have yielded a new level of relationship for the company and its customers. Recognizing that ET and Apache Sprayers weren’t the most recognizable names in the sprayer sector, he helped develop new ways to expand the company’s visibility and market share. One of those ways was borrowed from other industries: Create a call center to help direct qualified sales leads to sales representatives, providing a new level of customer service to farmers in the market for a sprayer and turning them into customers.

“When ET started operating a call center, we did it to find growers who would benefit from having a self-propelled sprayer, then connecting those growers to our team in the field. We wanted to make sure that if a farmer invests in a new or used Apache Sprayer, that farmer has a fabulous user experience,” Casey said. “Part of that is having a well-trained sales staff, and part of it is making ourselves available to our customers. If somebody is having trouble tracking down an owner’s manual, they can call us and talk to somebody at the factory. It’s part of our value proposition to the farmer. And at the end of the day, we want to do everything we can to drive value to the farmer.”

“The main goal is to expand market share for our sprayer business. Manufacturing great sprayers and getting them to farmers who will benefit from having them – this is our main priority,” Casey said. “Are there more farmers in the U.S. and Canada who would benefit from a self-propelled sprayer? Yes. Can we grow our market share in new areas? Yes, we can. That, to me, will be the right measure of success for us.”

“Just crush it.”

But soon, that growth will happen without Casey leading ET’s IT department. Though he said he’ll likely “do a little around here” after his official retirement, he’s confident his successor will continue managing the IT component of the sales and serving the customer as he has during his tenure.

“How do I want to be remembered? As a straight shooter. Someone who wants to create value for farmers without screwing around,” Casey said. “I have always approached information as something that can help us get closer to our farmers and do a better job of serving them.”

“Patrick Casey is irreplaceable,” said Matt Hays, ET Chief Executive Officer. “His respect for everyone, his  humor and compassion have helped shape the ET culture in such a positive way. We will miss him around here.”

“Leave me in the dust,” Casey said of his advice to his successor. “Stand on my shoulders and just crush it.”

Learn more about some of the technology options with ET and Apache Sprayers. See the full 2019 lineup of Apache Sprayers.

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Cover crops and no-till: The business case for healthy soil practices

Owning your own sprayer plays a major role in your no-till and cover crop success

Farmer balances soil health, high productivity with these two systems

Weed control is an increasing priority for many crop farmers today, especially with rising concerns about herbicide resistance in fields around North America.

Just as high of a priority for many farmers is soil health. To that end, cover crops are joining no-till systems as an increasingly common way to sustain soil health without sacrificing crop productivity. The two have one major thing in common: neither works without a sprayer.

The Chesapeake Bay region, an area not known for bumper crops but with high sensitivity to water quality and awareness of environmental issues, may seem a strange setting for Trey Hill. He’s a farmer who likens his operation more to a large, progressive Midwest row crop farm than smaller neighboring operations in the area.

But, it’s where Hill calls home, operating a farm that’s been in his family for over a century. Harborview Farms started out near Rock Hall, Maryland, in the early 20th century, and by the time Trey’s father Herman Hill, Jr. brought his son into the operation in the 1980s, soil- and water-saving practices were moving up the farm’s priority list. Today, two of those practices are no-till and cover crops, and a foundational element to making them both work is Hill’s sprayer.

Trey Hill approaches those practices through the lens of productivity, typically employing what many in agriculture would consider modern, conventional crop inputs, including full-rate chemical applications and genetically modified seed to maximize crop yield. Balancing those inputs with production systems like cover crops and no-till, he’s able to maximize output while being attentive to the long-term needs of his environment. In other words, two things historically considered mutually exclusive converge on Harborview Farms.

“I’m always looking for the most efficient ways to apply chemicals, and I’d say our sprayers are up-to-date,” Hill said. “There’s no way I could operate my farm this way if I didn’t use the latest chemistry and advanced seed genetics.”

No-till and cover crops as part of a broader strategy

Why go to the trouble to integrate environmentally sound production practices onto a farm whose goal is to maximize crop yield? The answer is simple: Hill sees direct impacts of a changing climate on his farm, and he wants to ensure Harborview Farms remains productive well into the future. While the right practices add up to production systems that wind up profitable for the farmer in the long run, the right combinations of technology and attentiveness to soil health and structure are helping Hill do more than make ends meet.

“We have had a lot more large rainfall events in the last few years. It’s pretty well-documented that the changing gulf stream has led to some very, very wet years,” Hill said. “We need to build resiliency in our soils so they can better absorb more of these four- and five-inch rains we’ve been having more often. We need to lessen erosion potential and increase soil organic matter.”

For Hill, it’s not just about clean water. When he transitioned to no-till and cover crops, he kept a close eye on maintaining long-term productivity and farm revenue. Over time, these types of practices have made his soils more malleable in the face of widening weather extremes and capable of supporting bumper crops year-in and year-out.

No-till helps create a more balanced environment for soils. When covered by crop residue year-round, soils in no-till systems don’t undergo typical wide swings in temperature common in conventional tillage systems. That residue helps the soils retain moisture better in arid areas and reduces erosion from both water and wind. The result is a more mellow seedbed with better-balanced organic matter.

But in the absence of tillage, no-till farmers also rely on chemicals to provide pre-emergence and knockdown control of weeds that otherwise would be managed by tillage. Precision is important when controlling weeds in a no-till system, making it difficult to rely on commercial applications since hitting a specific targeted time window in of the utmost importance.

Distinctions of cover crop systems

While they add to the benefits of no-till, cover crops also create new demand for chemical applications. They have grown in popularity among farmers in recent years for some of the same reasons as no-till’s earlier surge in popularity: cover crops help preserve soil structure and health by preventing erosion and providing additional sources of soil nutrients.

Often integrated into no-till production systems, cover crops take time to establish, but once a complementary mix has reached maturity, it can offset supplemental fertilizer and some herbicide needs if managed correctly. And, that management often includes using a sprayer to terminate the cover crop either immediately before or after planting a row crop. In addition to overall improved soil health and soil organic matter, benefits include increased row crop yield potential, grazing opportunities and reduced tillage costs.

“Cover crops generally are not harvested because many of their benefits are gained from decomposing biomass left in the field. Thus, cover crops must be efficiently terminated to prevent competition with cash crops. Inadequate termination of a cover crop or allowing a cover crop to go to seed may result in unwanted cover-crop growth during cash-crop production,” according to USDA report by a team led by Jason S. Bergtold, Kansas State University ag economist. “Herbicide spraying, known as chemical ‘burn down,’ is one method of termination. A burn-down pass to terminate a cover crop is unlikely to be an ‘additional’ pass for a no-till operator, as it is common to spray a non-selective herbicide prior to planting to terminate winter weeds.”

Maximizing cover crop benefits with a sprayer

Since integrating cover crops into his crop rotation in recent years, Hill has begun “planting green,” a technique that involves terminating his cover crop by spraying after he’s planted his row crops in the spring, yet another process whose success depends greatly on having a precise, effective sprayer. By spraying after he’s sown his cash crop, he’s able to maximize the soil health benefits of the fall-planted crops that complement his corn and soybeans for reasons similar to the soil health benefits of no-till systems.

“Planting green widens the spring planting window for us, because the cover crops help buffer some of the soil temperature variations that can make corn emergence difficult in the spring,” Hill said. “We’re actually planting earlier than we ever have because we’re planting into soil with living plants on it.”

The ability to better regulate soil temperature variation is just one of the benefits that make cover crops an ideal fit in many no-till systems in which cover crop residue can augment existing benefits of decreased tillage. “Residue mats minimize rainfall erosion, help maintain a constant soil temperature and decrease weed emergence,” Bergtold said.

After planting, Hill applies a full rate of herbicide to terminate the cover crop that usually comprises cereal rye, barley or wheat along with a clover, rapeseed and radish mix. Once the corn crop is planted, the cover crop is terminated within five to 10 days.

Timing termination

Why wait until after corn planting to terminate the cover crop? Hill said in addition to helping moderate soil moisture as well as temperatures, his specific cover crop mix has natural herbicide properties that complement the full rates of atrazine or other small-seeded broadleaf herbicides he applies after planting.

“You have to figure out which cover crops complement your cash crop instead of competing with it,” Hill said. “We still apply full rates today to prevent weeds from building resistance. Particularly with soybeans, this mix of cover crops and herbicides helps prevent marestail and Palmer amaranth. If you can knock it down when you terminate your cover crop around emergence, you won’t get it all year.”

Just like with chemical applications targeting specific weed pressures during the growing season, timing is hugely important when knocking down weeds when terminating cover crops after planting. Determining what will work best is a field-by-field decision process, Hill said.

“Timing is critical, especially with soybeans. Sometimes we can wait until our corn has emerged,” he said. “It just depends on the situation. Typically, we’ll chase the planter with the sprayer and try to do it in the same day.”

Why a sprayer is critical

Just like with no-till systems, ownership of a sprayer is an important part of making a cover crop system work in many instances given the importance of timing the termination of the crop, especially when planting green. “Personal ownership of a sprayer is convenient due to the required timeliness of this type of operation,” Bergtold said.

The combination of a wider spring planting window for corn and soybeans and natural season-long herbicide properties make cover crops a financially viable system for Hill’s operation, and he said he’s likely to continue working toward perfecting it to ensure his soils see continued benefits that will appear through continued strong crop yields and consistent soil organic matter and nutrients. He sees his sprayer as a critical component of managing his cover crops, and that will continue especially given the new components and features he expects in coming years.

“I’d like to get pulsating nozzles to help better deal with dicamba. Those higher-tech nozzles will really come into play with that product,” Hill said.

See some of the other technologies Hill has employed on his farm. If you’re interested in learning more about terminating cover crops with herbicide applications, start here. If you’re ready to get started but need to determine which sprayer is right for you, start here.

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