No Complaints Here: On Target Provides Solution
With more than a decade of experience with electrostatic sprayers, wine grape grower Mark Lingenfelder is one of the early adopters of the advanced spray technology.
He’s also one of its biggest advocates. The executive vice president of vineyards for Chalk Hill Estate in Healdsburg, Calif., uses the technology on virtually all of the 400 acres he manages.
On Target Spray Systems provide better coverage than traditional air-blast sprayers, he says, use far less water, and enable him to treat two and three times as many acres in any one day as he can with traditional spray technology.
“A lot of time in spraying is wasted driving back to the shop and filling the spray rig up and mixing,” he said. “If you can reduce the number of gallons of water you use per acre and still get as good or even better coverage, you can cover that many more acres.”
Lingenfelder said he typically uses 12 gallons of water per acre throughout the season with his On Target sprayer, compared to anywhere from 50 to 100 gallons of water per acre he formerly used with his air-blast sprayer, depending on the time of season.
For perspective, he noted: “We used to have a 300-gallon sprayer, so if you had to go at 100 gallons per acre, you would only be spraying three acres per load.
“With the electrostatic, we only have a 100-gallon tank, but we spray at 12 gallons per acre; and we get better coverage than we would at say 50 to 100 gallons per acre with the air-blast sprayer,” he said.
Growers talk about how spray from On Target Spray Systems appears to hang momentarily over crop canopies.
“It is like a fog,” Lingenfelder said. “And if the mist goes through the canopy, it makes a U-turn and goes back in.”
Lingenfelder noted that the On Target Spray Systems enable him to keep all 400 acres of his vineyards protected with just three sprayers, even during peak mildew season.
“With the three sprayers, it take us about 10 days to get through everything, so if you are on a 10-day interval, you just have to get right back on it,” he said. “If we were doing more gallons (of water) per acre, we wouldn’t finish it in 10 days, so there would be some period during the season where we would not have coverage.
“If we were using the other technology, we would probably need at least one more tractor and one more sprayer, and that is quite an investment,” he said.
In addition to the savings on labor, fuel and equipment, Lingfelder said that he can maneuver the light-weight On Target sprayers over wet ground, providing him the flexibility to treat vineyards after rain events.
“Especially in the spring, when it is wet, you can get in there with this light sprayer and get really good coverage,” he said. “We can get these sprayers through vineyards at times in the spring when we wouldn’t even think about pulling a 300-gallon air-blast sprayer through.”
Initially, surprisingly, it wasn’t the savings in labor and fuel costs that prompted Lingenfelder to consider purchasing an electrostatic sprayer. He was looking to appease neighbors who were complaining about pesticide drift and noise after a housing development sprang up around three sides of a 50-acre Chalk Hill vineyard.
“Some of those houses come right up to the property line, and we were having negative issues with the neighbors about drift,” Lingenfelder said. “I’m not talking two or three neighbors. I’m talking more like 30. And they were really irate.”
To dispel the drift complaints, Lingenfelder began spraying at night. Then came the complaints over noise.
“We were turning the tractor right next to one neighbor’s back fence, over and over,” he said. “Those air-blast sprayers make a hell of a racket. And to drive that fan and that pump and pull that 300 gallons of water, you have to run that tractor at a high RPM, so the tractor is making more noise.”
Lingfelder’s farming practices were protected by Sonoma County right-to-farm laws, but he sought to get along with his neighbors. After talking to a neighboring farmer who owned an electrostatic sprayer, he began looking into purchasing the advanced technology.
With On Target sprayers, Lingelder discovered he could essentially eliminated drift and dramatically minimize noise.
“We wanted to be able to tell the neighbors, ‘Look, we have done everything we possibly can to keep it as quiet as possible and keep the drift down to a minimum,’” he said.
What he discovered next surprised even himself. After treating the vineyard with the electrostatic sprayer, Lingenfelder noticed that the block, long a problem spot for mildew, was mildew free.
“That was our worst spot for mildew, and when we switched over to the electrostatic sprayer, we didn’t have mildew anymore,” he said. “We bought the other two sprayers just because we liked the performance, and we were able to cover so much more ground.”
He also achieved his original goal.
“Now, with the electrostatic sprayer, we don’t get the drift,” he said. “And it is so much quieter than an air-blast sprayer.
Now the sound of the tractor engine is louder than the sprayer.”
On Target sprayers are a little more expensive than traditional air-blast sprayers, Lingenfelder said, and require a little more attention to upkeep, but the benefits far outweigh any drawbacks.
“As for the maintenance, there is a lot more technology involved in these sprayers and it is also technology that is not familiar,” he said. “The technology used by the standard air-blast sprayers has been around fifty or sixty years. There is nothing new about it. This is different technology.”
Key to proper maintenance, he said, is flushing the system after each shift.
As for the initial expense, Lingenfelder said he determined that with the savings the On Target Spray Systems provide him in labor, fuel and other costs, he pays the extra costs “if not in that first season, part way through the second season.”
Asked if he would recommend On Target Spray Systems to other growers, Lingenfelder didn’t hesitate: “Yes, I would,” he said. “In fact, I already have recommended them to several people.”