Low-Tech Tool to Reduce Pesticide Drift

by Communications Committee

Calibration graphic for ease of use

Calibration graphic for ease of use

The recommendation from the Oregon State University Integrated Plant Protection Center (IPPC) is to not spray pesticides when wind speed exceeds nine miles per hour. Reducing wind drift is a key component in protecting surface water, and neighboring properties, from receiving a dose of unintended chemicals. For applicators sitting inside the cab of a tractor or suited up with protective gear, it is very difficult to check wind speed without stopping to consult a hand held gadget or look up weather information that may not be accurate for their exact location. Maybe the answer is a low-tech windsock to solve the problem.

Calibrated Windsocks
Agricultural windsocks are calibrated to be responsive at low wind speed, from 2 to 12 miles per hour and are attached directly to the sprayer or tractor. By looking at the angle of extension and the direction of the windsock, an applicator can tell at a glance whether to continue spraying or to adjust the spraying strategy. Real-time information can prove invaluable in protecting water quality, the crop on the next farm, or a residence located within spray drift reach.
The calibrated windsocks are constructed from double-stitched urethane coated nylon and are UV protected. The light material is necessary to be able to calibrate them to low wind speed. This means the windsock must not be left outside in the elements as the fabric will breakdown within a year or so.

Pilot Project
Clackamas County Soil and Water Conservation District is piloting a project to give calibrated windsocks to producers in the county. The producers have agreed to respond to a survey once they have used the windsocks for at least 10 applications. We are collaborating with the IPPC in conducting the survey. Results will help us find out if the windsocks are useful in helping make good decisions and if the program is worth continuing. If the windsocks are not useful in reducing wind drift, then we will find another way to help producers reduce pesticide contamination of our surface water!
If you are interested in these calibrated windsocks, our source is Airport Windsocks. Any questions about the pilot program with our producers, contact Lisa Kilders 503-210-6002.