By Craig W. Anderson

More than 300 farmers, supervisors, foremen, other farm employees and interested ag organizations filled the main hall of the Robert J. Cabral Ag Center for the 12th annual Spray Safe pesticide review. Experts in the pesticide realm and associated arenas discussed a variety of pesticide issues.

According to San Joaquin County Agricultural Commissioner Tim Pelican, the farmer-generated Spray Safe program “protects workers and the population from pesticide accidents” and that the program’s importance has grown because “more people live in areas where they interface with pesticides, so there are more reports. There’s a lot of scrutiny now and I expect more restrictions are on the way.”

Master of Ceremony Ed Lucchesi introduced the remainder of the program participants.

Ken Everett, DPR Acting
Assistant Director

Ken Everett, Department of Pesticide Regulations acting assistant director said, somewhat ruefully, that the department “had some cases and situations last year that when the press got hold of it, the overreaction was evident.”

However, Everett also encouraged the agricultural community to speak out about pesticide issues. “The desire of the DPR director is to work with you on the issues, encourage your comments as an industry. We have some major issues coming up and we’re looking forward to all of you making your opinions known and the voice of agriculture heard.”

Lynn Wunderlich, UC Cooperative Extention, explained the various elements of calibrating spray equipment to better ensure effective applications and preventing drift.

“People seldom talk about spray application but we’re working on more accurate application and noting that more plant resistance [to materials] is being seen,” Wunderlich said. “Maximizing coverage, understanding the equipment, matching coverage to the canopy and the weather are all very important to successful applications. Communication with the spray team is also a vital element.” She added that within the context of spraying, “The nozzle is the spearhead of Integrated Pest Management.”

Wunderlich detailed the importance of cleaning the sprayer, agitation, the pressure gauge’s visibility, tractor speed related to conditions and the importance of the sprayer’s fan system in establishing droplet size.

Material flow rates, droplet size, correct installation and single-piece nozzles were also discussed with Wunderlich pointing out that manufacturer’s catalogues “can be consulted to determine flow rates at a given pressure, especially from new nozzles.” Since droplet size determines drift, the spray quality of the jets needs to be correct; coverage can be measured by water sensitive paper with spray information on them placed in orchard blocks. This will, she said, allow faster adjustments of spray and streamline the process.

Jim Farrar, UCCE Director of UC IPM program

“IPM programs can integrate with spraying programs to ensure coverage without drift,” Farrar said. “We’re extending UC research on how to manager pests while protecting human health, the environment, air and water resources, bees and the economy.”

The IPM program has information in multiple formats to help pesticide applicators make safe applications and effectively manage pests. Almost everything offered is in both English and Spanish.

The education process of the university’s IPM program is extensive. The program has a number of publications covering issues such as safety; a reference manual; laws and regulations; urban and forest landscape maintenance; and lawns.

A residential manual is also available along with a card set covering the understanding of pesticide labels for making proper applications. Online training via You Tube can be taken any time for continuing education credits.

Additional information includes proper selection, use and removal of protection equipment; IPM services in schools and child care settings and urban pesticide runoff and mitigation.

Deputy Ag Commissioner Jesse Fowler provides laws and regulations update

Fowler queried the crowd by asking which of these is a pesticide: Gronioxone, bleach, lime sulfur, hydrogen peroxide or dormant oil. “They’re all pesticides because to be used as a pesticide, they must be registered to be used as one,” she said.

Fowler explained an assortment of required certifications that included renewing the PAC card before April 1, after which the test will be required; field worker training on regulations is required annually and must be in place “before any materials are handled”; ground water protection areas were noted and explained; the “A” series leaflet must be posted in any permanent fieldworker lavatory; workers must be medically cleared and have a “fit” test on their own respirator in order to use it; the minimum thickness of chemical resistant gloves is 14 mils.

Changes regarding major materials will take place. Chlorpyrifos: the sale of this material ends Feb. 6, 2020 and its use ends Dec. 31, 2020 but the granular type can still be used. Paraquat, a restricted use pesticide will require certification to use it.

Other regulated activities include: eyewash must be immediately available in quantity enough to allow “you to get to the decontamination area quickly to fully rinse your eye,” and if it’s in a vehicle cab the worker “should be able to grab the bottle blindfolded!”

Also, a handler should review the pesticide label whenever they’re mixing/loading and applying it.

PCA Larry Whitted on reducing the chance of pesticide drift

Whitted started his presentation by saying, “Every spray application to an orchard canopy or vineyard results in some off-side drift. And if you can smell the material, that’s drift.”

Whitted related his experiences back in the day of nerve-wracking situations that could easily have been disastrous that led him to the conclusion over his decades of PCA experience that “if a crew is working on adjacent property, don’t spray. You don’t want to risk drift onto people in the vicinity. Also, don’t apply a pesticide that isn’t registered for us on the adjacent crop, whatever it is.”

In essence, Whitted said applications must take into account every possible and even weird aspect of possible influences on adjacent crops, people and whatever else may be affected.

What can be done to increase applications’ success rate? “I liked the checklist that SpraySafe has presented in the past that can be used to reduce human error. This is a basic, reliable method that really works to cut down on errors.”

Casey Wright, biologist, explains Beewhere program

Bees are vital to agriculture’s success at almost every level and in San Joaquin County, says Casey Wright, and San Joaquin County Ag Commissioner’s office biologist. “Every beehive owner in the county must notify California of the number of hives and their location. A beekeeper relocating an apiary to California must register as well. All hives must be registered.”

She explained that any pesticide label noting “toxic to bees” is, indeed, toxic to bees, regardless of any ameliorating language or words and if an applicator is planning to apply such a material in an area bees are known to inhabit, they must determine if bees are in the area.

After the bee check – and if bees are present – the beekeepers must be notified about everything; what needs to occur can be found at the county’s website. Bee checks can also be done by phone. When in doubt, call.

Raul Pena, VP of TerrAvion, explains aerial imagery

“Aerial imagery is the key for digital agronomy,” said Raul Pena, vice president of the imaging company TerrAvion, which was founded in 2013. “Since 2016 we’ve delivered the largest volume of aerial imagery by any company that does what we do.”

The key is the image and its quality. A satellite’s image quality is not as good as other methods and one such method is the drone but battery life and the cost of repairing and replacing damages can be very expensive, Pena said. “We use fixed wing aircraft with a belly filled with instrumentation and a two-person crew. With our equipment we can drill down to 10 cm detail observing weather, pests and development. We can see what they’re doing to the imaged area.”

TerrAvion works with major agronomy and farm equipment companies, specialty equipment companies, specialty crop farmers, and computer and tech companies.

Kamps’ Propane, N&S Tractor provide economical irrigation alternative

Josh Simpson, vice president of marketing for Kamps Propane explained the innovation in irrigation provided by Kamps’ propane replacing electricity and diesel power for irrigation pumps and other power plants.

“Propane is popular in the San Joaquin Valley’s irrigation season with lower prices that creates opportunities for farmers to run their pumps on propane with significant savings over electric and diesel,” Simpson said.

Produced in California, propane’s stable cost over time provides farmers with good predictability making budgeting for energy more accurate, Simpson said.

“A customer survey based on the average cost of previous seasons revealed that red diesel’s cost ranged from $2.75 to $2.95 a gallon,” he explained. “Propane’s range was $1.20 to $1.30 a gallon. In addition to propane’s usual low cost, we have special pricing for Farm Bureau members.”

He noted that propane is used throughout the ag economy to drive hullers, dryers, forklifts, generators, water pumps and, of course, diesel-block propane engines and that “Farmers switching over to propane can reduce their fuel costs by 30%.”

Not only does propane reduce fuel costs, the diesel block engines are “a more robust engine with a longer life cycle and increased reliability,” Simpson said.

Simpson is working SJFB to set up a Kamps propane power workshop for SJFB members. “I talked to Bruce [Blodgett] and David [Strecker] about it and they’re very supportive. It could happen reasonably soon. Kamps has the people to help and the resources we need right here near our Manteca office.”

Shari Pedersen representing N&S Tractor

The advantages of running irrigation engines and generators on propane were explained by Pedersen.

“The heavy duty diesel-based engine blocks result in a propane pump engine or generator that is reliable, clean burning, quiet and uncomplicated,” she said. “These engines offer substantial fuel cost savings over diesel, they often beat electric in hourly run cost and they’re EPA approved with no ‘Tiers.’”

Made in the USA, N&S power plants boast fast, affordable installation with variable RPM speeds, horse power ranging from 70 to 300 and with the added bonus of “propane is nearly impossible to steal,” she said.