An old proverb says, "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now." For both Northwest producers and those of us at RDO Equipment Co., a challenge we focus on for today and years in the future: balancing pesticide use, pest control, and maintaining soil health. 

There’s a lot that goes into responsibly managing soil health, but one practice is proving to be remarkably beneficial: targeted spot spraying. Overapplication of pesticides is wasteful, expensive, a time management nightmare — and it could harm the soil's health for growing crops. Spot spraying systems create opportunities for growers to target intra-field variability of pesticide growth when pesticides need to be applied. 

Both aftermarket spot sprayer upgrades to retrofit sprayers and factory installed spot sprayers are now offered by most Original Equipment Manufacturers’ (OEMs) models. Most aftermarket spot spraying systems are vigorously marketed, with many of those marketing materials accurately claiming you’ll be able to put 70% of your spraying costs back into your pocket with an upgrade.  Of course, this kind of savings offers immediate gratification, but for those of us keeping an eye on the oak we should have planted yesterday--and on the years and decades ahead --the real win comes from the efficacy of an upgraded spraying application.  

Let’s assume you were charged $10 per acre in pesticides, and with that sprayer upgrade, you now pay $3 per acre. That sounds fine, right? But what if you re-invested the $7 you saved and purchased a more advanced spraying technology for the next spraying application, to use only 30% of that product equaling more efficient kill and fewer pests? That sounds like an environmentally – and financially - positive outcome as we see more pesticide resistance and over-application than ever.  

All  of us know inputs, like pesticides, and equipment costs have increased over the past several years, so it can be hard to remember old proverbs or worry about making “future oak tree” decisions that require more funds and effort for downstream benefits (Isn't it easy to worry only about this year instead of thinking about the generation ahead?). However, our care to reduce chronic pest growth this year while managing pesticide resistance will increase the viability of the soil and water for many years to come.  

Trust me, 20 years from today, you'll be thanking your past self, who had the old wisdom to invest time, effort and funds in aftermarket spraying equipment. Our future selves will be grateful we planted the operational seed of responsible nutrient management through targeted pesticide applications.