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Aerial Crop Dusting


Today, aerial application is a sophisticated and rapidly growing industry

The first known aerial application of agricultural materials was flown by John Chaytor, who, in 1906, spread seed over a swamped valley floor in Wairoa, New Zealand, using a hot air balloon with mobile tethers. The first known powered aircraft to spread agricultural materials was a U.S. Army Air Service Curtiss JN4, or “Jenny,” piloted by John MacReady spraying lead arsenate from a makeshift metal hopper to kill catalpa sphinx caterpillars that had infested an orchard near Troy, Ohio in 1921

A subsequent study revealed that the pesky caterpillars were virtually wiped out from the application and “crop dusting” was born. The first commercial operation to lead the charge in aerial application was Continental Dusters, once part of Delta Airlines, using insecticides and fungicides to treat a host of crops and tackle insects and other infestations

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To produce future foods, fiber and bio-fuels, increased production on the land already in use will be critical. The use of fungicides, insecticides and herbicides has helped to increase crop yields, allowing more people and animals to be fed and clothed. And it has opened the way for advancements in alternative energies. High-yield agriculture benefits the environment by producing maximum crop yields from fewer acres. Aerial application is a critical component in maximizing this production from the land used. For example, corn fungicide applications during the “tasselling” or pollinating stage of corn growth will produce more corn for the use of bio-fuels, food growth and livestock

It’s estimated that, with the increase in the world’s population, food, fiber and bio-fuel production will need to double by the year 2050 to meet the growing demand. Due to the large economic growth and middle class surges in India and China—accounting for almost 40 percent of the world’s population—the demand for beef has grown tremendously. As the demand for meat rises, the demand for grain and protein feeds rises as well. It takes eight pounds of grain to make one pound of beef, so the demand for growth in grain production is at an unprecedented high

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The use and development of pesticides and other agricultural application materials comes with its share of environmental concerns. Spray drift, soil contamination, water pollution and occupational disease (often in the form of increased risk to cancer) are a few. Increased environmental regulations implemented by the FAA and EPA in recent years have reduced emissions and dangerous contaminations. In order to stay current, aircraft and equipment in the ag industry are state-of-the-art. Crop-dusting planes today have on-board computers that monitor the rate of application and GPS units to make each field pass more accurate. The days of attaching a 50-gallon drum of chemicals to a rickety airplane are over, as the aircraft today have sophisticated spraying capabilities to improve efficiencies and reduce environmental impact

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