Glacier FarmMedia COVID-19 & the Farm

Manitoba aerial sprayers flooded with business

CNS Canada — Excessive moisture in southern Manitoba and Saskatchewan has caused flooding and complications not only for farmers on the ground, but also for the aerial spraying industry.

“We’re busy here every year at this time, but there is increased demand for the airplanes because the ground sprayers are not able to get on some fields,” said Jon Bagley, owner and pilot at Westman Aerial Spraying, east of Brandon, Man. “So we have picked up extra work, there’s no two ways about it.”

Bagley said right now his business is filled with requests for spraying fungicides and herbicides.

“We’ve had a lot of requests to spray herbicides and so on, which unfortunately we weren’t able to do because we’re busy in the fungicide season now,” said Bagley. “So it’s definitely an increase in demand.”

Delayed seeding due to the late spring brought expectations of delayed spraying, Bagley said. But surprisingly, that wasn’t the case.

“We were expecting to have a late start with aerial spraying, we normally start around the third week of June,” said Bagley. “But we started doing some aerial spraying right around the first week of June this year, so it was earlier than normal.”

The aerial spraying business is booming right now with the wet fields, according to Bagley.

“We probably got the biggest surge in demand right about the time we had that four- to five-day rain,” he said. “That’s when it was kind of all building and as soon as that ended, a lot of crops were ready for fungicide spraying and a lot of late-seeded crops were ready for herbicide applications.”

Intense demand for aerial spraying makes it hard to keep up at times, he said.

“There was just no way possible any ground sprayers were going to be moving so we were just absolutely flooded,” said Bagley. “Right now, we’ve got conservatively 20,000 acres on the books that need to be done right away and the we probably have that same amount coming over the next week for sure. So we’re just having trouble keeping up.”

At times, weather conditions make it difficult to get any significant amount of aerial spraying done.

“We get days where we start out fine but wind comes up by 8 a.m. and it was time to shut down because the wind was 35 km/h,” said Bagley. “It’s too windy really for anything to spray in, but for airplanes it’s definitely too windy to spray.”

“So we start flying at 5 a.m., and when you shut down at 8:30 or 9 a.m., that’s only four or five hours, that’s not a big day,” he added.

Beneficial weather has slowly been helping improve the situation. Bagley said this week he started using the ground sprayers again on select fields.

“It is drying up enough that we can start to get some ground spraying done again, which will hopefully take a bit of pressure off the airplanes,” he said. “We do have some acres to do by ground down around the Minto area and tomorrow we’re going to try to go down around there, but we’re going to make sure there’s a tractor nearby in case we get stuck.”

— Marney Blunt writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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