Flying for your Food
The Many Benefits of Aerial Application
What is Aerial Application?
Aerial application uses airplanes and helicopters to seed, fertilize and treat crops with protective products to control weeds, insects and fungi. It is used on conventional and organic cropland. Aerial application is also used to treat forestland, rangeland and pastureland. In addition to boosting crop yields, aerial applicators use agricultural aircraft to sow soil-enhancing cover crop seeds, fight and prevent the spread of wildfires, clean up oil spills, and protect human health by controlling mosquitoes that carry West Nile and Zika virus, encephalitis and other harmful diseases. Originally known as crop dusters, today's pilots are referred to as "aerial applicators" or "agricultural pilots."
Training & Professionalism
Ag pilots are highly trained professionals committed to doing their job in a safe, efficient and responsible manner.
- On average, agricultural pilots have more than 25 years of agricultural fiying experience and over 10,000 hours of agricultural flight time -that's like being up in the air for 14 months straight!
- To perform aerial application, ag pilots need a commercial pilot's certificate and must pass a knowledge and skills test of agricultural aircraft operations. They also need appropriate agricultural aviation insurance coverage.
- Ag pilots need a pesticide applicator license from the states they fly in showing their knowledge in the safe handling and use of pesticides.
- Ag pilots use drift reduction technologies to deliver on-target applications and mitigate drift.
- Ag pilots pattern-test their aircraft at Operation S.A.F.E. Professional Application Analysis Clinics. These clinics test application equipment to ensure the product is applied to the target area with optimal crop coverage, providing the full plant health benefits of the application.
Did You Know
- Aerial application is over 100 years old and used on nearly all crops. The five most common crops aerial applicators treat are corn, wheat/barley, soybeans, alfalfa and pastures / rangelands.
- Aerial application is important whether a crop is grown Organically or not because all crops need fertilizers and pests eradicated. Both farming methods use pesticides, just different types.
- Aerial application is good for the environment because it enables farmers to produce more food and fiber on less land. This results in more land for carbon-sequestering forests, water-filtering wetlands and wildlife habitat.
- During a disease or insect epidemic that can devastate the impacted crop, farmers rely on aerial application because it is the only way to treat large affected areas in a timely manner to prevent crop damage.
- Aerial application plays a critical role in controlling mosquitos, which carry health-threatening if not deadly diseases like Zika, West Nile virus and other diseases.
- Aerial applicators fly state-of-the-art aircraft. Ag aircraft can cost as much as $2 million depending on hopper size (where the product goes), engine type and other add-ons.
- Aerial applicators treat 127 million acres of cropland a year in the U.S., in addition to millions of acres of pasture and rangeland.
- Aerial applicators seed 3.8 million acres of cover crops annually, which helps sequester the equivalent of 1.9 million metric tons of CO2 a year.
Aerial Applicators Help Fee, Clothe and Fuel the World
Aerial application is a vital component of high-yield agriculture, benefiting the environment by producing more crops on fewer acres.
It is often the fastest most efficient, economical, and sometimes the only way to protect crops from yield-robbing insects and plant diseases. But farmers and aerial applicators will be challenged to keep pace with the growing population in the future.
- 18% Percentage of the world's food supply that the US Contributes
- 10% Percentage of farmland the US process its food supply from
- 2050 By 2050 there will be 9.6 billion people on the planet. That's 2.2 billion more mouths to feed than today
- 60%Amount of additional food farmers need to produce by 2050
To meet the food demand of the growing global population, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that world food production must increase by 60 percent by 2050.
Because of the growing demand for food, labor and biofuel, aerial application and its ability to make fast, efficient and timely applications will be even more important in the future.