How to Optimize Fungicide Applications with Drones
With the rise of precision agriculture solutions, the farming industry has become increasingly tech savvy. Many growers and producers have embraced GPS-enabled tractors, variable-rate fertilizer applications, and smart platforms that monitor everything from pest populations to yield performance.
Now, the latest drone technologies are improving another common farming task: fungicide applications. Rantizo sells a turnkey system optimized for drone spraying and other applications that includes autonomous drones, supporting equipment, and licensing and technical support. We work with a network of application services contractors and agribusinesses to supply them with everything needed to provide services such as site-specific fungicide applications to growers.
With fungicide applications, there are portions of the field that will see considerable benefit from a fungicide and other portions of the field that will not. Think about those field edges where vermin have wreaked havoc on crops as they scour for a midnight snack.
Site-specific applications mean you're only applying in those spots where you're going to get the benefit. It makes sense…now if there were only a solution available to deliver on this efficiently, precisely, and cost effectively. That’s where Rantizo comes in!
Variable Rate versus Variable Application
I’ll never forget shortly after Rantizo got our initial approvals from the FAA for drone spraying, having a phone conversation with a farmer in the Midwest. He wanted to hire Rantizo to come out and cover over 3,000 acres for fungicide applications. As much as I wanted to be able to say “we can do that”, the reality was, that just wasn’t a good fit for our drone technology at the time. But the real question was, why did it have to be?
Not to be confused with variable-rate applications that apply different amounts of product in different areas, variable applications, also known as site-specific applications focus on the fields, soil types, and hybrids that will best benefit from fungicide sprays. The applications are then delivered only to those select spots.
With corn, for example, certain hybrids respond well to fungicides, and growers can count on bushel increases as a result. Other hybrids may only produce nominal bushel bumps—or none at all—when treated with fungicide.
Site-specific applications offer a simple solution. Growers spray fungicide to maximize the areas where meaningful bushel increases will occur, and avoid spraying areas where they won’t.
The Benefit of Drone-Delivered Applications
While variable applications of fungicides could technically be applied manually or using tractors and spray rigs, there are several reasons to opt for drone applications.
One is that timing is critical. Fungicides have a low residual, so they must be applied at just the right time to optimize effectiveness. Achieving the right application timing with traditional farm equipment can be challenging for a number of reasons:
Crop damage in late season fields
Soil compaction from oversized heavy equipment
Muddy fields after rainfall
Drone application systems like that Rantizo has developed can fly up and over crops avoiding all the headaches and delivering pinpointed results.
Flying the drones to complete fungicide applications is only half of the picture though. Identifying exactly the areas in the field needing applications is the other. Rantizo has made it easy to deploy drones when and where they’re needed by working with digital ag and data companies to facilitate a complete precision systems approach.
Imagery data is a common example. We can seamlessly use that data to map out fields ahead of time, indicating the missions for the drone to Fly & Apply® along with areas to avoid where the crop is damaged due to high winds, hungry deer, or other issues. By leveraging that, our application services contractors Fly & Apply fungicide where it will be most effective, delivering better results to their customers.
For Ryan Gibbs, a Rantizo application services contractor and an eastern Iowa farmer who raises hogs and cattle and grows corn, soybeans, cover crop, and alfalfa, this process provides a real return on investment for his customers and on his own farm.
“I’ve got an 80-acre field, but I don’t want to spray the outside rows or near the creek or by the timber where the deer eat the corn,” he says. “Why spray those areas when I’m getting no use out of it? For me, I can take the drone out there and just map the field that needs to be sprayed, and I'll only spray about 65 acres.”
Admittedly drone technology is still relatively new in agriculture, but we hear over and over ‘it’s the future of ag’. I beg to differ and say that drones are the present of ag if for no other reason than Rantizo’s network of over 50 contractors (and growing) across the country providing services to their farmer customers today.
Site-specific fungicide applications are just one instance where I see drones really taking off (pun intended). But to be quite honest, the sky’s the limit (oh, there’s another)! Interseeding of cover crops, foliar fertilizer applications, even beneficial insect deployments have all found their way to Rantizo for our ability to precisely deliver only what is needed, where it’s needed. That has tremendous value in today’s discussion around sustainability and profitability in farming.
We like to say we’re elevating precision ag. More and more growers are starting to see this, hire our services, and believe us. It’s an exciting time to be on the cutting edge, don’t you think?
To schedule Rantizo fungicide applications, go here: www.rantizo.com/services