Aerial application, commonly called crop dusting, involves spraying crops with fertilizer
Fertilizer is any organic or inorganic material of natural or synthetic origin that is added to a soil to supply one or more plant nutrients essential to the growth of plants. A recent assessment found that about 40 to 60% of crop yields are attributable to commercial fertilizer use...
Pesticides are substances or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling or mitigating any pest.A pesticide may be a chemical unicycle, biological agent , antimicrobial, disinfectant or device used against any pest...
s, and fungicides from an agricultural aircraft
An agricultural aircraft is an aircraft that has been built or converted for agricultural use - usually aerial application of pesticides or fertilizer ; in these roles they are referred to as "crop dusters" or "top dressers"...
. The specific spreading of fertilizer is also known as aerial topdressing.
Agricultural aircraft are often purpose-built, though many have been converted from existing airframe
The airframe of an aircraft is its mechanical structure. It is typically considered to include fuselage, wings and undercarriage and exclude the propulsion system...
A helicopter is a type of rotorcraft in which lift and thrust are supplied by one or more engine-driven rotors. This allows the helicopter to take off and land vertically, to hover, and to fly forwards, backwards, and laterally...
s are sometimes used, and some aircraft serve double duty as water bombers in areas prone to wildfires.
Aerial seed sowing 1906The first known aerial application of agricultural materials was by John Chaytor, who in 1906 spread seed over a swamped valley floor in Wairoa
Wairoa is a town in New Zealand's North Island. It is the northernmost town in the Hawke's Bay region, and is located on the northern shore of Hawke Bay at the mouth of the Wairoa River and to the west of Mahia Peninsula...
, New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...
, using a hot air balloon
Hot air balloon
The hot air balloon is the oldest successful human-carrying flight technology. It is in a class of aircraft known as balloon aircraft. On November 21, 1783, in Paris, France, the first untethered manned flight was made by Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d'Arlandes in a hot air...
with mobile tethers. Aerial sowing of seed has continued on a small
Crop dusting 1921The first known use of a heavier-than-air machine occurred on 3 August 1921. Crop dusting was developed under the joint efforts of the U.S. Agriculture Department, and the U.S. Army Signal Corps's research station at McCook Field
McCook Field was an airfield and aviation experimentation station operated by the Aviation Section, U.S. Signal Corps and its successor the United States Army Air Service from 1917-1927...
in Dayton, Ohio
Dayton is the 6th largest city in the U.S. state of Ohio and the county seat of Montgomery County, the fifth most populous county in the state. The population was 141,527 at the 2010 census. The Dayton Metropolitan Statistical Area had a population of 841,502 in the 2010 census...
. Under the direction of McCook engineer Etienne Dormoy, a United States Army Air Service
United States Army Air Service
The Air Service, United States Army was a forerunner of the United States Air Force during and after World War I. It was established as an independent but temporary wartime branch of the War Department by two executive orders of President Woodrow Wilson: on May 24, 1918, replacing the Aviation...
Curtiss JN4 Jenny piloted by John A. Macready was modified at McCook Field to spread lead arsenate to kill catalpa sphinx
The Catalpa Sphinx is a hawk moth of the Sphingidae family.-Range:Ceratomia catalpae is a native of southeastern North America and can be located on catalpa trees that grow within this region...
caterpillars at a Catalapa farm near Troy, Ohio
Ohio is a Midwestern state in the United States. The 34th largest state by area in the U.S.,it is the 7th‑most populous with over 11.5 million residents, containing several major American cities and seven metropolitan areas with populations of 500,000 or more.The state's capital is Columbus...
in the United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...
. The first test was considered highly successful. The first commercial operations were begun in 1924, by Huff-Daland Crop Dusting, which was co-founded by McCook Field test pilot Lt. Harold R. Harris. Use of insecticide
An insecticide is a pesticide used against insects. They include ovicides and larvicides used against the eggs and larvae of insects respectively. Insecticides are used in agriculture, medicine, industry and the household. The use of insecticides is believed to be one of the major factors behind...
Fungicides are chemical compounds or biological organisms used to kill or inhibit fungi or fungal spores. Fungi can cause serious damage in agriculture, resulting in critical losses of yield, quality and profit. Fungicides are used both in agriculture and to fight fungal infections in animals...
for crop dusting slowly spread in the Americas and to a lesser extent other nations in the 1930s and 1940s.
Top dressing 1939-1946Aerial topdressing, the spread of fertilizers such as superphosphate, was developed in New Zealand in the 1940s by members of the Ministry of Public Works and RNZAF, led by Alan Pritchard
Alan Pritchard was a pilot for the New Zealand Public Works Department from the late 1930s to mid 1950s. Using a Miles Whitney Straight from 1939 on his own initiative and sometimes forging aircraft log books to conceal his work, Pritchard conducted trials of aerial seed sowing and spreading...
and Doug Campbell - unofficial experiments by individuals within the government led to funded research. Initially fertilizer and seed were dropped together (1939), using a window mounted chute on a Miles Whitney Straight, but by the end of the 1940s different mixtures of fertilizer were being distributed from hoppers installed in war surplus Grumman Avengers and C-47 Dakotas, as well as some privately operated de Havilland Tiger Moth
De Havilland Tiger Moth
The de Havilland DH 82 Tiger Moth is a 1930s biplane designed by Geoffrey de Havilland and was operated by the Royal Air Force and others as a primary trainer. The Tiger Moth remained in service with the RAF until replaced by the de Havilland Chipmunk in 1952, when many of the surplus aircraft...
s in New Zealand, and the practise was being adopted experimentally in Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...
and the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...
Crop dusting poisons enjoyed a boom after World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...
until the environmental impact of widespread use became clear, particularly after the publishing of Rachel Carson
Rachel Louise Carson was an American marine biologist and conservationist whose writings are credited with advancing the global environmental movement....
's Silent Spring
Silent Spring is a book written by Rachel Carson and published by Houghton Mifflin on 27 September 1962. The book is widely credited with helping launch the environmental movement....
Water bombing 1952Aerial firefighting
Aerial firefighting is the use of aircraft and other aerial resources to combat wildfires. The types of aircraft used include fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. Smokejumpers and rappellers are also classified as aerial firefighters, delivered to the fire by parachute from a variety of fixed-wing...
, or water bombing, was tested experimentally by Art Seller's Skyways air services in Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...
in 1952 (dropping a mix of water, fertilizer and seed), and established in California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...
in the mid 1950s.
Night aerial application 1973-presentCrop dusting at night is mostly liquid spray and is conducted in the Southwest U.S. desert
A desert is a landscape or region that receives an extremely low amount of precipitation, less than enough to support growth of most plants. Most deserts have an average annual precipitation of less than...
s. The rising cost of pesticides and increasing immunity built up by continuous spraying reduced the effectiveness of spraying in daytime. In high temperature areas, the insects would travel down in plants in daytime and return to the top at night. The aircraft — both fixed wing and helicopters — were equipped with lights, usually three sets: Work lights were high power and aimed or adjustable from the cockpit; wire lights were angled down for taxiing and wire or obstruction illumination; and turn lights were only turned on in the direction of the turn to allow safe operation on moonless nights where angle of entry or exit needed to be illuminated. These aircraft were equipped with pumps, booms, and nozzles for spray application. Some aircraft were equipped with an elongated metal wing called a spreader, with inbuilt channels to direct the flow of dust such as sulfur, used on melons as a pesticide and soil amendment. Very little pesticide dust was used day or night in comparison to spray, because of the difficulty in drift control. Workers on the ground, called "flaggers", would use flashlights aimed at the aircraft to mark the swaths on the ground; later, GPS
Global Positioning System
The Global Positioning System is a space-based global navigation satellite system that provides location and time information in all weather, anywhere on or near the Earth, where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites...
units replaced the flaggers due to new laws restricting use of human flaggers with some pesticides.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Bureau of Labor Statistics
The Bureau of Labor Statistics is a unit of the United States Department of Labor. It is the principal fact-finding agency for the U.S. government in the broad field of labor economics and statistics. The BLS is a governmental statistical agency that collects, processes, analyzes, and...
, in 2005 U.S. cropduster pilots earned an average annual wage of $63,210.
Environmental and human health issuesThe aerial application industry is seemingly plagued with contradictory studies, some of which are negative and damaging and some are positive and show how the industry has evolved to become modern day environmental stewards. As with pesticide application in general, crop dusting is associated with a number of environmental concerns, including spray drift, soil contamination
Soil contamination or soil pollution is caused by the presence of xenobiotic chemicals or other alteration in the natural soil environment....
, water pollution
Water pollution is the contamination of water bodies . Water pollution occurs when pollutants are discharged directly or indirectly into water bodies without adequate treatment to remove harmful compounds....
, and occupational health concerns. Pesticide manufactures are continually evolving to address these concerns. In the infancy of the pesticide era little was known about the environmental impact of using pesticides. Over time it became evident that better chemical compounds and more focused stewardship on behalf of the applicator were going to have to be researched and implemented. Recently, pesticide manufactures have developed new products that are designed to be safely metabolized when applied to prevent any unwanted or damaging environmental impacts; these new chemical compounds are referred to as “soft chemicals”.
All crop protection products must meet tough safety standards. Only one in 20,000 chemicals actually survives the 8-10 year process of development, testing, and registration by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Costs to test a pesticide's safety can range in price from $160 to $200 million.
Nearly 900 scientists and program officials from the EPA make sure that products are properly registered to comply with federal law. Once on the market, they are monitored by the EPA, the Food and Drug Administration
Food and Drug Administration
The Food and Drug Administration is an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, one of the United States federal executive departments...
(FDA) and state pesticide enforcement agencies. This stringent regulatory system ensures the safety of our food, the safety of the products to the environment, to water and to the farm workers that mix, load and apply the products.
Another concern is that the aerial application of pesticides can lead to Pesticide resistance
Pesticide resistance is the adaptation of pest population targeted by a pesticide resulting in decreased susceptibility to that chemical. In other words, pests develop a resistance to a chemical through natural selection: the most resistant organisms are the ones to survive and pass on their...
by insects, and is thus not a sustainable practice, however this is more to do with outdated farming practices and not the actual pesticides themselves. Modern day farming utilizes Integrated pest management
Integrated Pest Management
Integrated pest management is an ecological approach to agricultural pest control that integrates pesticides/herbicides into a management system incorporating a range of practices for economic control of a pest...
(IPM) in order to reduce or eliminate pesticide resistance.
In the U.S. in 1970, lawsuits and court cases involving spraying of pesticides, such as aerial application in commercial agriculture were a growing area in law, combining areas such as negligence
Negligence is a failure to exercise the care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in like circumstances. The area of tort law known as negligence involves harm caused by carelessness, not intentional harm.According to Jay M...
, products liability, strict liability
In law, strict liability is a standard for liability which may exist in either a criminal or civil context. A rule specifying strict liability makes a person legally responsible for the damage and loss caused by his or her acts and omissions regardless of culpability...
, statutory regulation and commercial law
Commercial law is the body of law that governs business and commercial transactions...
. Environmental and human rights issues associated with crop dusting is greatest in developing countries, where government oversight is weaker or absent, few safety practices are used, and chemicals are used that are banned in most developed countries.
This has led to many developments to mandate the proper dispersal of pesticides among all users. Aerial application specifically has improved equipment and techniques to provide accurate and effective delivery of crop protection products. In the 1960s the National Agricultural Aviation Association (NAAA) was established to foster industry development to the highest standards. Recently, NAAA developed the Professional Aerial Applicators Support System (PAASS) to educate pilots about safety, security and drift mitigation. PAASS is committed to reaching every aerial applicator in the U.S. with the latest information regarding these issues. In addition, the NAAA works with the federal government to invest in researching, developing and testing aerial application technologies to strengthen the safe application of crop protection products by air. Since the programs implementation statistical data suggests a substantial decreased to number of pesticide related incidences.
Crop dusting involving arsenic
Arsenic is a chemical element with the symbol As, atomic number 33 and relative atomic mass 74.92. Arsenic occurs in many minerals, usually in conjunction with sulfur and metals, and also as a pure elemental crystal. It was first documented by Albertus Magnus in 1250.Arsenic is a metalloid...
powders has been implicated in Bowen's disease
Bowen's disease is a neoplastic skin disease, it can be considered as an early stage or intraepidermal form of squamous cell carcinoma. It was named after Mark Bowen...
. However, lead arsenic has not been used by aerial applicators or in any other form of agriculture for three decades because of the adverse affects to human heath that were not as well known when the powder was legal. There has been an ongoing debate about the effects of consuming food that has been treated with pesticides. Often the consumers receive conflicting data on this topic and find themselves in the crossfire of politically and emotionally charged facts pertaining to the pros and cons of pesticides.
The American Cancer Society states:
"Many kinds of pesticides are widely used in agriculture in the production of our food supply. People who eat more fruits and vegetables, which may contain trace amounts of pesticides, generally have lower cancer risks than people who eat fewer fruits and vegetables. Pesticides play a valuable role in sustaining our food supply. When properly controlled, the minimal risks pesticides pose are greatly overshadowed by the health benefits of a diverse diet rich in foods from plant sources."
“Aerial application helps make it possible for us to have these fresh fruits and vegetables year round. Pesticide use has resulted in increased availability and a variety of low cost, fresh fruits and vegetables year round. This has had significant impact on human health because there is strong evidence that increased consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables is associated with a reduced risk of chronic disease, including many cancers. Crop protection products also play a role in enhancing the safety of the food supply by reducing levels of natural toxins, such as mycotoxins and reducing the potential for contamination of fresh produce by food borne human pathogens”.
- Pesticide applicationPesticide applicationPesticide application refers to the practical way in which pesticides, are delivered to their biological targets...
- SprayerSprayerA sprayer is a device used to spray a liquid.In agriculture, a sprayer is a piece of equipment that spray nozzles to apply herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers to agricultural crops...
- Ultra-low volumeUltra-low volumeThe term Ultra-Low Volume is used in the context of pesticide application.Ultra-low volume application of pesticides has been defined as spraying at a of les than 5 L/ha for field crops or les than 50 L/ha for tree/bush crops...
- http://www.agaviation.org/ National Agricultural Aviation Association