Agriculture and Environment: Soybeans

Better Management Practices: Reward Custom Applicators

The rise in use of custom applicators is partly in response to increased pesticide regulations.

By law, use of restricted pesticides is limited to licensed applicators. If producers don't want to go through the bother of becoming licensed, then they have no choice but to hire custom applicators.


Strong incentives to encourage adoption
Such applicators need to be given strong incentives to adopt BMPs and to reduce the overall impact of both their practices and the chemicals they apply. The issue, however, is not entirely related to regulations. Labour costs are increasing, which makes management more expensive.

Increased usage in the US
As a consequence, in the United States, at least, there is a rise in the use of custom applicators. For example, custom applicators now apply 50-60% of all pesticides in Iowa. In general, applicators are not committed to BMPs (NRDC 2001). Rather they are often interested in getting through the job as quickly as possible because they are paid by the area sprayed.

Although careful crop rotation can reduce herbicide and fertiliser use, to work effectively it might take three to four crops. The economics of subsidies and the lack of markets for small grains in the United States discourage crop rotation, however (NRDC 2001).

Service packages by custom applicators
Instead, producers are increasingly relying on a package of services provided by custom applicators to reduce the pest problems that result from continuous soybean cultivation or more lucrative soybean and crop rotations. The package includes a rate of pesticide application per hectare as determined by the applicator but also based on manufacturer recommendations. These recommendations are notoriously high.

Integrated pest management practices
In Iowa, the state's extension service has shown producers that insecticide rates could be reduced by 50-75% through integrated pest management (IPM) practices (NRDC 2001). Producers and custom applicators will reduce application rates based on their own or a trusted source's experience. However, both will be concerned about potential liability for a damaged or unprotected crop. Producers will only adopt BMPs such as IPM if they believe that they will result in a good crop with undue pest problems and an average or better yield.

The importance of custom applicators
Custom applicators provide services on a wide range of issues from financing to delivering the crop to market. Because they are increasingly part of the application of various inputs, they must be involved in the development of viable reduction strategies.

Custom applicators are trusted by producers. It is assumed that they have the latest information and research results, are well-trained, and have the latest equipment that is dedicated to the task. In general, custom applicators will incorporate BMPs into their programs if they perform well for the producers and thus do not threaten the reputation of the applicator (NRDC 2001).

By law, use of restricted pesticides is limited to licensed applicators. If producers don't want to go through the bother of becoming licensed, then they have no choice but to hire custom applicators.


Strong incentives to encourage adoption
Such applicators need to be given strong incentives to adopt BMPs and to reduce the overall impact of both their practices and the chemicals they apply. The issue, however, is not entirely related to regulations. Labour costs are increasing, which makes management more expensive.

Increased usage in the US
As a consequence, in the United States, at least, there is a rise in the use of custom applicators. For example, custom applicators now apply 50-60% of all pesticides in Iowa. In general, applicators are not committed to BMPs (NRDC 2001). Rather they are often interested in getting through the job as quickly as possible because they are paid by the area sprayed.

Although careful crop rotation can reduce herbicide and fertiliser use, to work effectively it might take three to four crops. The economics of subsidies and the lack of markets for small grains in the United States discourage crop rotation, however (NRDC 2001).

Service packages by custom applicators
Instead, producers are increasingly relying on a package of services provided by custom applicators to reduce the pest problems that result from continuous soybean cultivation or more lucrative soybean and crop rotations. The package includes a rate of pesticide application per hectare as determined by the applicator but also based on manufacturer recommendations. These recommendations are notoriously high.

Integrated pest management practices
In Iowa, the state's extension service has shown producers that insecticide rates could be reduced by 50-75% through integrated pest management (IPM) practices (NRDC 2001). Producers and custom applicators will reduce application rates based on their own or a trusted source's experience. However, both will be concerned about potential liability for a damaged or unprotected crop. Producers will only adopt BMPs such as IPM if they believe that they will result in a good crop with undue pest problems and an average or better yield.

The importance of custom applicators
Custom applicators provide services on a wide range of issues from financing to delivering the crop to market. Because they are increasingly part of the application of various inputs, they must be involved in the development of viable reduction strategies.

Custom applicators are trusted by producers. It is assumed that they have the latest information and research results, are well-trained, and have the latest equipment that is dedicated to the task. In general, custom applicators will incorporate BMPs into their programs if they perform well for the producers and thus do not threaten the reputation of the applicator (NRDC 2001).

Credits

Extracts from "World Agriculture & Environment" by Jason Clay - buy the book online from Island Press

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