Tom Merkle - Zirkle Fruit Company

On Target: Environmentally Sound Mildew Control

Tom Merkle, director of vineyards for Zirkle Fruit Company in Selah, Washington, discovered the benefits of electrostatic sprayers in the mid-1990s and has been using the advanced technology ever since.

“We’re still using some of the same technology that we started out with,” he said. “We keep them clean, change a nozzle or a valve here or there, but we’re still using the original sprayers, booms, tanks, everything.

“They are a great tool,” he said. “Particularly if you can stay ahead of the mildew, I feel very confident those machines will perform to and above potential.”

Merkle cited several benefits that he attains from utilizing On Target electrostatic sprayers, including minimizing down time.

“You can cover a lot more ground when you’re spraying 18 to 20 gallons (of water) to the acre than if you’re spraying 50 to 100 gallons to the acre with an air-blast sprayer,” he said.

He also likes that electrostatic sprayers help reduce his carbon footprint.

“It’s nice,” Merkle said. “Anything you can do for the environment is a good thing. You’re definitely lowering your carbon footprint with these sprayers, and you’ve got less drift. You’re not just throwing a bunch of spray up in the air and hoping it goes where you want. You’re focusing that spray. The charged particles are going right to the canopy. We don’t have much drift at all.”

 

On Target sprayers cost more than conventional air-blast sprayers, but Merkle said that over time the machines pay for themselves in better spray efficiency and lower fuel and labor costs.

“It’s a time saver, a fuel saver, and a labor saver,” he said.