WEED-IT Precision Spot Spraying Keeping farmers afloat during rising costs

In the years, 2021-2022 farmers took a hard hit as the world began to recover from the Covid pandemic. Farmers in Montana struggled with rising chemical prices, equipment costs, and fuel prices that cut deeply into their profit margins.

In the years, 2021-2022 farmers took a hard hit as the world began to recover from the Covid pandemic. Farmers in Montana struggled with rising chemical prices, equipment costs, and fuel prices that cut deeply into their profit margins. The rising price of commodities and the 24% increase in yields helped compensate for the increase in costs but still left many farmers with a knot in their stomachs. Glyphosate experienced a 77% price increase between June 2021 and January 2022 with Paraquot experiencing an 85% price increase between June of 2021 and October of 2021 (holding steady) through February 2022. That is a hard hit for farmers spraying thousands of acres each year. On top of the rising costs of production, farmers struggle to find a way to combat weed resistance while staying within chemical usage regulations.

“It’s a struggle because we don’t have a fixed price for goods or fixed crop outcome,” says Mike Ladenburg of Seven R Farms in Havre, MT.

These economic changes have farmers looking for technologies that are more efficient to stay afloat, but which ones do they choose? One popular technology among farmers is WEED-IT Spot Spraying technology.

WEED-IT is a red light technology that detects chlorophyll in living plants. These sensors can detect a plant as small as a quarter while operating at speeds up to 15mph both during the day and at night, increasing a farmer’s efficiency and their ability to fight weed resistance at an earlier growth stage. Farmers have reported an average of 90% savings on their chemical costs per season due to these added capabilities! With the reduction of chemical use, farmers are able to stay within usage restrictions and beat weed resistance, which over time is increasing their chemical savings as fields become cleaner with each year of using WEED-IT.

To further increase efficiency, WEED-IT is decreasing the amount of time it takes to spray each pass. On average, the time spent refilling tanks takes 3-4 hours per day, but now that farmers are targeting individual weeds, they are able to run for 2-3 days without refilling. This adds an additional 500-850 acres a day that farmers are able to spray. Being able to spray at night adds even further to the number of acres that can be sprayed in a day.

Along with spot spraying capabilities, WEED-IT offers full pulse width modulation (PWM) broadcast spraying and the ability to apply a reduced blanket rate while also applying a full rate where weeds are detected. This “dual” mode has become more popular in spraying the first pass of the year when fields have more grasses and few larger weeds, again reducing their overall chemical usage. This saves farmers 40-60% on their first spray pass of the year versus a full burn down application.

So, the numbers sound great, but how true are they? I reached out to some local WEED-IT owners to hear what they had to say and if the reality proved true to the math. Mike Ladenburg has run WEED-IT just one season and is already seeing huge savings. “This past season I only ran WEED-IT and it saved me 90-92% on my chemical cost. Even on my worst field, it saved me 60% on my chemical cost. That equated to $40 per acre, paying for more than half of the system in one season.” Mike is not only seeing a huge savings on his chemical prices, but on time and water usage as well. Without WEED-IT Mike spent between three to four hours a day just refilling his tank, now he runs all day without refilling. “A 1000 gallons often lasts me a few days”.

Kurt Kammerzell, owner of K.J.K Farms in Chester, MT has been using WEED-IT for five years now and is still in awe of his huge savings in chemical. Before Kurt adopted WEED-IT into his farming practices, he and his family spent long days in the sun digging up weeds by hand in order to make a dent in his weed resistance. “I had followed WEED-IT for a while, but when I had Jeff Mattson come spray my fields with his WEED-IT and saw him use less than ½ gallon per acre; that sold me right there.” Kurt told me that over the years, he has averaged a 90-95% savings and even on his worst field he’s saving 70-80% on his chemical costs by using WEED-IT. “It’s like spraying a football field that has just a few weeds; you end up only spraying 3 square feet of the whole field. There are times we go over 5 football fields and the sprayer never fires. I used to buy semi loads of chemical each year and now I’m buying just a couple of shuttles,” says Kurt. “The money we save on chemical we no longer use in June, July, and August is huge!”
Charles Good, founder of MaxAg Montana in Carter Montana, reported that in 2022 he saved over $200,000 spraying 17,600 acres with 2,460 acres worth of chemical.

Not only is WEED-IT saving Montana farmers big on their chemical cost, WEED-IT is allowing them to improve their farming practices and soil qualities. “With what I’m saving on chemical cost I’m able to apply extra fertilizer, upgrade equipment, and make up for the rising cost of everything,” says Mike Ladenburg, “but what I really like about WEED-IT is that I can use more unconventional mixes that I couldn’t afford to use before, especially in fighting kochia. I think at this point that everyone with chem fallow ground should have a WEED-IT.” Kurt Kammerzell agrees with Mike saying, “My fields are a lot cleaner now because with WEED-IT. I can afford to use higher rates and I’m able to spray weeds when they are much smaller before they go to seed. I’ve especially been able to get control of the foxtail barley”.

Weather conditions in the spring and summer can be less than desirable for spraying with very few calm wind days. I asked Kurt how WEED-IT plays into this, “Wind doesn’t affect us much, we will just expand our margins in real windy conditions and it does really well,” says Kurt. Without WEED-IT’s adjustable spray margins, farmers would have to put down a higher rate of
chemical to make up for the loss in drift, which can be costly. Again, spraying at night aids in avoiding drift loss as well, as the wind typically dies down at night.

WEED-IT is not only being used in herbicide applications, but in desiccating crops prior to harvest when fields don’t dry evenly. “I’m thinking about using WEED-IT this next year for other applications like that,” says Mike.

It has been interesting talking to WEED-IT owners across the state to hear how WEED-IT has improved their farms. The consensus is that WEED-IT’s advertised 90% savings is a very honest statement. With that level of savings, WEED-IT is easing the cost burden of herbicide on farmers. When costs doubled in 2021-2022, WEED-IT owners were able to maintain their profit margins on their crops, while still controlling their weed density and resistance. “Montana produces 12% of all wheat in the United States with 5.6 million acres planted in 2022. Our farmers are a huge asset to the United States’ agriculture but farming is a stressful business. WEED-IT is helping relieve some of that stress when Mother Nature wants to add to it,” says Aelin Herrington, the National Director of Business Development at AgriTech America.

WEED-IT can be retrofitted to most self-propelled and pull type sprayers including but not limited to John Deere, CASE IH, and New Holland. Additional information about WEED-IT can be found at www.weeditspotspray.com or through your local Montana dealer in Great Falls, Conrad, Cut Bank, Havre, or Belgrade. It’s time to start saving and stop spending!

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This post originally appeared on TechToday.