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Spotlight   | Summer 2012

Controlling pesticide drift

diagram regarding chemical droplets
Pesticides and chemical additives can lead to the formation of satellite droplets during crop spraying. Emission of satellite droplets—shown here between two main drops—is detrimental in a number of applications, ranging from food processing to rocket propulsion systems. (Photo credit: Purdue University)

Chemical additives that help agricultural pesticides adhere to their targets during spraying can lead to formation of smaller "satellite" droplets that cause those pesticides to drift into unwanted areas, Purdue University researchers have found. Drifting of agricultural pesticides not only increases waste and cost for farmers but also can cause health, environmental and property damage.

According to food science researcher Carlos Corvalan, under-standing how the additives work together means they could be designed to decrease the health, environmental and property damage risks caused by drift. Corvalan conducted the study with fellow researchers Osvaldo Campanella, agricultural and biological engineering, and Paul E. Sojka, mechanical engineering.

"When we spray liquids, we have what we call main drops, which are drops of the desired size, and we can also have smaller satellite drops," Corvalan said. "The smaller drops move easily by wind and travel long distances. Now that we know better how additives influence the formation of satellite droplets, we can control their formation."

Corvalan is transferring the results obtained from agricultural research into food processing and rocket propulsion work. He said drop-size uniformity is as important for fuels sprayed into rocket combustion chambers as for the production of food emulsions.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Air Quality Program, and the Army Research Office funded the work.

By Brian Wallheimer


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