This tip was provided by:
Calvin Trostle, Extension Agronomy, Lubbock, 806-746-6101, firstname.lastname@example.org
An Important Component of Weed Control that Doesn’t Involve Chemicals, Equipment, or even Weeds. I. Your Employees
I believe applicator awareness is often overlooked in weed control. Communication and the needed instruction between a farmer and their own employees can make the difference in a serious mistake that damages a current crop or affects a planned crop rotation next year, or perhaps amounts to 85% weed control instead of the near 100% that you otherwise would expect.
Here are some tips as you work with your on-farm weed control team…
- First, simply emphasize safety at all times. On the farm I grew up on, I will admit that didn’t always happen. I will admit that as a teenager I did some things that were stupid.
- Confirm and cross-check with your staff which chemicals and any additives are being used.
- Eliminate potential confusion about amount of chemical added to tanks, proper land speed, and issues involving calibration.
- Ride the rig with your staff as much as is needed to ensure they are properly trained.
- Communicate how important it is to fix plugged nozzles immediately (stop right there in the field!) and address other equipment issues; or in some cases that tank and system cleanout is conducted properly.
- Teach your staff to stop and CALL YOU if something doesn’t look right. Imagine one of your staff spraying dicamba on 16” tall grain sorghum with a hooded sprayer. But the ground is rough and at the speed you are calibrated for the hoods are banging into the ground. Instead of calling you, your employee raises the hoods 6” and sprays the field. Now you have the risk that some crop loss may occur due to unacceptable contact of dicamba with the sorghum and potential blasted heads which don’t fill very well.
Asking confirmation questions of your staff—there is a right way to do this…
A good way to double-check with your staff that proper chemicals and amount are being prepared for application is to ask what has been done. But how you ask will give you a more accurate indication of proper procedure and more likely identify if mistakes have been made.
Here is an example where you instruct your son/daughter or other employee to add a given amount, 2.0 gallons, of dicamba to a 300-gallon tank or spraying grain sorghum. Now you want to ask if they did it right.
- This is not a good question to ask: “Did you add 2.0 gallons of Banvel to the tank?” Why is this not a good question to ask?—because the employee can answer ‘Yes’ without revealing if they might have made a mistake. Maybe they did make a mistake. They added 2 jugs of Banvel (2.5 gallons each) to the tank. An employee might realize they made a mistake and be afraid to admit it (even though the long-term consequences—severely damaged sorghum—are worse; but they might not know this could be a problem, or they will only be working for you through the summer then quit and go back to school, etc.). This question may not have revealed the error.
- Instead ask this question: “What chemical and how much did you add to the tank?” Now this is a question they can’t answer ‘Yes’. They have to tell you something. They will either guess (still might be right, but not likely), or they don’t know, or they will tell you the wrong thing. Now you have a good chance of knowing if a mistake has been made. If the sorghum field hasn’t been sprayed yet, you can avert a potential disaster.
Investing time and training in your employee that handles spray duties, and rewarding them…
For your family member (even a teenager) or permanent staff that helps spray your crops:
- Have them study and train on your timeclock for their own pesticide applicator’s license.
- Arrange for them to take the test.
- When they pass it give them one-time bonus ($250?) or an annual supplement. This tells your employee he or she has increased value as part of your team and that you value their new skills. Increased training and sense of value on the part of your employee might avert a crucial mistake that could cost tens of thousands of dollars.
- Have your newly licensed applicator help you maintain your records for TDA.
In my next Sorghum Tip I will discuss some pointers for interacting with your custom applicator.
Ready On-line Access to Chemical Labels for Agricultural Production
Herbicides, insecticides, seed treatments, fungicides, etc. All in one place. Chemical Data Management Systems maintains current full and Section labels at http://www.cdms.net (click on Label Database, then type in the name of the chemical in the search box). For additional use of this website, including instructions on how to search for chemicals by active ingredient (often a generic), consult the AgriLife Extension guide for using CDMS’ website at http://lubbock.tamu.edu/files/2015/05/2015-Texas-Grain-Sorghum-Weed-Control-Guide-A.pdf