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More planes to fly Indiana skies in July

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Written Tuesday, July 03, 2007  

Ag companies have been promoting the use of fungicides in a year where the demand and price for corn has growers looking at opportunities to increase yield, said a Purdue University expert.

This year, based on commercial ag dealer reports, approximately 1.2 million acres of Indiana corn will be treated by aerial application of fungicides.

"This is a significant increase in acres treated with fungicides and something very new to Indiana," said Indiana state chemist Robert Waltz.

Traditionally only high-value crops like seed corn are treated with fungicides, usually totaling 100,000-200,000 acres in Indiana.

The Office of Indiana State Chemist, housed at Purdue, oversees the licensing and certification of aerial applicators. This year the office has certified 118 aerial applicators, four times more than normal. The majority are from out of state because Indiana doesn't have enough applicators to handle the increased number of acres to be treated, said David Scott, pesticide administrator at the state chemist's office.

Applicators have been certified from a number of states, including Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

"These applicators are well-trained professionals and know their responsibility to protect the safety of their neighbors, employees, the public and the environment," Scott said. "Each is licensed to perform applications by both the Federal Aviation Administration and the Office of Indiana State Chemist."

Aerial applicators are required to:

* Fly low to the ground to prevent the fungicide from drifting.

* Keep the fungicide on target (on site).

* Follow all fungicide label directions and restrictions.

* Keep buffer zones between the target field and sensitive sites such as waterways and wildlife areas.

Scott said it's a good idea for farmers having their fields treated to give neighbors bordering the field a courtesy call to let them know what to expect and when.

"People who are not familiar with field practices may panic if they see planes flying so low to the ground," he said. "But actually, lower is better because it helps prevent drift.

"Just a brief conversation could go a long way toward avoiding potential misunderstandings."

Because more corn is planted in the north, that part of the state likely will see more planes than southern Indiana.

Today's global positioning systems technology allows applicators to map out the fields they will be treating and mark sensitive sites before they are even in the air, Scott said. The plane's spray nozzles are calibrated to the exact concentration to be applied on the field.

Even though science and technology have helped minimize the risks of spraying fields, people should avoid contact with the spray.

"Neighbors or bystanders should stay out of the path of aerial applicators spraying fungicides," Waltz said.

For questions or more information about aerial application, please contact the Office of Indiana State Chemist at (800) 893-6637.

Anyone who sees an applicator believed not to be following proper procedures should call the state chemist's office to file a report. Following a report, an investigator will be assigned to determine if there was a violation of the law.

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