Chemical class 101
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Chemical class 101

Kurt Becker, executive vice president at Dramm, shares tips on successful chemical application methods.

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September 21, 2020

For nearly 30 years, Kurt Becker has been part of the Dramm team. After working his way up through the ropes, he’s now serving as executive vice president of commercial products and sales marketing. Over the years, he has helped widen the range of spray equipment, and he currently works alongside chemical manufacturers to gain insight on new products. Since Dramm specializes in a wide range of tools for pesticide application, Becker’s decades-long employment has positioned him as an expert in the industry.

According to him, the first thing to consider regarding chemical application is the type of equipment a grower has.

“There are different ways to apply chemistry,” Becker says. “You have the spray route, which would be primarily targeting foliage, and you have drenches which [are] going to be more of a soil-type application to the root zone of the plant.”

When drenching, Becker advises growers to measure dosages, especially when a systemic insecticide is being used. “Those tend to be expensive, so you don’t want to spill them on the ground. You don’t want to over apply them. Some of those can be damaging to the plant if you do over apply them,” he says. “The right amount makes a huge difference.”

While Dramm has specialized equipment for drenching, Becker recommends hydraulic sprayers and injectors to saturate the soil. He advises hydraulic sprayers because they have multiple uses and allow growers to target specific plants without spraying the greenhouse.

“Hydraulic sprayers are always one of the first tools we recommend growers to have because [they’re] usable in so many ways,” he says. “It’s like a Swiss army knife. You can do a lot of things with it.”

Injectors are also good tools because they automate the process of applying plant additives and chemicals while minimizing labor costs and exposure to the treated areas.  

As for foggers, Becker says he generally sees them used on a regular basis, more so than hydraulic and targeted sprayers. But he says equipment use is contingent on the type of applications.

“We also advise growers to have a fogger at their disposal because they generally reduce labor dramatically without sacrificing results,” he says. “In fact, they normally increase results.”

What will not increase results, however, are frequent misapplication methods. A common habit he sees is growers using the same stroke method at two different distances — 2 feet and 8 feet away. If a grower is spraying 2 feet and 8 feet away simultaneously, the closer plants will inevitably retain more chemicals and receive a higher concentration on top, while the plants 8 feet away will not.

To combat this, Becker suggests choosing a distance to target, which allows growers to see the most open entry to the side of the plant. For visual reference, he compares the process to rain.

“Plants are basically like umbrellas,” he says. “When rain falls from the sky, it hits the plant and runs off the leaves to the outside. That’s the reason bugs like living underneath — they don’t get washed off by the rain. Because of this, they hide underneath the leaf and lay their eggs on the underside of the leaf. If you’re spraying 2 feet in front of you, you’re hitting the top of the plant. If you spray 8 feet away from you, you’re probably spraying more on the side of the plant, which is going to help you hit the undersides.” 

To ensure even application underneath plants, Becker says growers should spray at an 8-foot arc. This will not only result in better crops but will prevent pests from surviving and building resistance in underapplied areas.

To ensure proper staff training, Becker recommends using visual aids while spraying. For example, some cards turn colors once they are wet, which lets growers see the amount of chemicals being applied.

“Once that’s done, look at the places that weren’t done well, retag the whole area and see how they can improve,” he says. “Ask questions like, ‘How can you adjust the spray pattern?’ ‘How can you adjust your technique to try and get that area to be covered better?’’’

All in all, Becker says techniques will depend on the tools a grower has, but the education surrounding chemical application can be applied all around. “Dramm’s whole philosophy is, we try to have a wide range of tools to help growers apply pesticides while making sure they’re trained and taught properly,” Becker says. “We want to make sure we can help growers do the best job.”