Airborne agriculture: spraying fungicide

By Chad Hobbs

 You may have noticed a low flying helicopter or airplane buzzing back and forth across fields in the area at some point during the last several weeks. Being that it has been a year that seems to have some new, bizarre “threat” almost monthly, it is no surprise that several wild theories have arisen from what these aircraft are doing.

 Some have insinuated that it was the government, that the tail number of one was claimed to include CVD19 pointing to some sort of COVID 19 “spraying”, and even the conspiracy theory of chemtrails has made its way around social media.

 The truth is that these aircraft have been brought to the area to spray local corn fields with a fungicide. Farmers have been doing this for years now, though, the amount of acreage and individuals opting for this type of field treatment have been on the rise.

 This year has been a fine example of how traditional cycles of hot, dry weeks in late July and August have given way to weather patterns with much more precipitation during this period of recent summers. Though increases in rain during these mid-summer months are a welcome sight, many farmers have realized not only does it help the crops grow, but it can also lead to the growth of molds, mildews, blights, rusts and other such diseases.

 By this point in the season, corn stalks have grown to a maturity that restricts air flow between plants, shades the ground allowing moisture to linger longer, and provides enough heat to set up an ideal environment for many of the above listed issues to thrive.

 Fungicides help prevent these disease processes from getting out of hand. The only problem is that when it is the most beneficial time to spray; it is also a time when the corn stalks have become too tall for ground-based sprayers to enter the field. This leaves farmers with but one choice: aerial application.

 With more acres being applied with fungicides than ever, with more people being home than usual due to the pandemic, and with it being the year that it has been; it is no surprise that many theories have arisen in regards to what these aircraft are up to. It may look peculiar if you’ve never witnessed a helicopter skimming the ground only to quickly ascend, loop and dive bomb back towards where it came from, over and over, with a mist trailing behind it, but there is nothing sinister at play.

 For those worried about health concerns, the fungicides used are not carcinogenic, as some have speculated. In fact, the EPA says the acute toxicity of these chemicals are considered low. The agency states that it can be irritating to the skin and eyes, if directly sprayed, and that inhalation may cause throat irritation, resulting in sneezing or coughing.

 With a few fields still scheduled to be sprayed this year, a helicopter that appears to be flying abnormally, back and forth, across a field shouldn’t worry you. It is just a farmer, hoping to keep his crop healthy with an application of fungicide until harvest time rolls around.

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