By 2035, there will be nearly nine billion people on earth. World food needs will triple, but land area suitable for farming is not increasing. High-yield agriculture benefits the environment by producing maximum crop yields from a small amount of land.
Without crop protection products to control insects, weeds and diseases, crop yields per acre would drop by more than 50 percent. The result would be skyrocketing food prices and widespread hunger. An increase in land used by agriculture would also mean a decrease in land for wildlife habitat, rainforests, and recreation.
“Crop dusting” is an outdated term. Today, most applications are in liquid form. Additionally, today’s aerial applicators do much more than control insects, weeds and diseases. They can “plant” seeds from the air, fertilize and add nutrients to the soil, help clean up oil spills in the ocean and harbors – even fight wildfires!
Aerial agricultural pilots are highly-trained professionals, over 90 percent of whom are owner-operators. Many ag operations are family businesses that have been at work over 20 years. Operators fly specially designed helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. All aircraft use sophisticated equipment such as Global Positioning System, flow controls and precisely calibrated spray equipment to ensure accuracy in product application.
When pests or disease threaten a crop, time is critical. Aerial application is often the fastest means of getting the necessary protection products to the affected crop. It can also be the most economical, as less fuel is used. And it can be more environmentally friendly, too, as its use reduces soil erosion by as much as 90 percent, by assisting no-till or minimum till operations which preserve the integrity of the soil. All crop protection products must meet tough safety standards. Once on the market, they are monitored by the EPA, and Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This ensures the safety of the fresh fruits and vegetables we can enjoy year-round.
Agencies ranging from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Department of Transportation (DOT), and individual State Departments of Agriculture, Ecology and Environment regulate aerial applicators. Pertinent personnel inspect operations and require specific documentation of each field sprayed. The industry monitors itself through the National Agricultural Aviation Association (NAAA).
Reprinted from the South Dakota Aerial Applicators website: sdagaviation.com