“We knew that if we could get the growers to the meetings, and help them calibrate their sprayers, we could help them reduce input costs,” says Johnson.

Sprayer calibration is a critical element for producers, says Wilkins.

“Apply too much, you risk crop injury and potential environmental impacts, and you have increased costs because of wasted product. Apply too little, you risk poor pest control, increased chemical costs because of product reapplications and reduced income from yield loss.”

Wilkins and Johnson enlisted the assistance of Smith Tractor Company, a John Deere retailer in the area, and Hypro Sprayer Company. The sprayer workshops reached 60 farmers and included classroom presentations followed by sprayer tip evaluation demonstrations. During these demonstrations representatives from Alabama Extension, Florida Extension, Smith Tractor and Hypro would calibrate sprayers brought on site by farmers. 

Wilkins says most of these sprayers have more than 60 tips, and each tip was evaluated using state-of-the-art calibration equipment provided by Smith Tractor and Hypro.

“We then took the information from calibration testing and put it in a spreadsheet designed by Florida Extension. After doing some calculations, the spreadsheet advises whether producers should change their sprayer tips.”

Billy Danielson with Smith Tractor says it was a solid business decision to work with both Extension organizations on the sprayer workshops.

“It’s good for us when we can cooperate with Extension,” he says. “The more education we can get out, the better we all are. These three workshops are the most successful of any events we have done in the last 10 years.”

Wilkins says a five percent reduction in total spray volume is a conservative assessment as a result of calibration changes made at the workshop.

Extension economists estimated that each of the 60 producers was farming an average of 1,000 acres so workshop participants as a group were working about 60,000 acres. According to the Gulf Coast Farm Analysis Association, the average cost of chemicals for peanuts and cotton is about $171. This means that workshop participants as a group saved more than $500,000 in input costs.

Johnson says producers appreciated how the workshops were set up.

“They appreciated that the meetings were held well in advance of planting times and that the meetings offered more than classroom instruction,” she says. “Being hands-on with farmers is still an important part of the county agent’s job. We are just doing hands-on work in ways that make the most of the technology available to us.”

Wilkins and Johnson add another benefit to partnering with industry is reaching new clients. Wilkins says that the workshops highlighted the quality of Extension programs to producers who have not been to many Extension programs.

For information on properly calibrating and setting up a planter for top performance, see:

Planter Clinic Part 1: Finely tuned planter can't overcome other deficiencies

Planter Clinic Part 2: Tuning your planter to maximize yield and profit

Planter Clinic Part 3: Managing your planter for peak performance