It’s no secret that two of the biggest challenges facing growers are labor and water, and finding solutions to help meet those challenges will be key to the future of ag in the United States. National Nut Grower sat down with Willie Hartman, founder of OnTarget Spray Systems, to talk about those issues — and solutions available to meet those challenges.
What do growers consider their two most problematic issues?
Willie Hartman (WH): Growers across the board are very concerned about water and labor. Both are in short supply and getting worse. Water costs per acre foot are through the roof. New rules regarding an eight-hour workday are driving up labor costs, and it doesn’t seem that the government is helping matters or bringing solutions.
What are the various types of sprayers used for tree nuts?
WH: There are only three types of sprayers for tree nuts that I am aware of. Air blast sprayers were introduced right after World War II. Air-blast sprayers consist of a trailer that holds a 400- to 600- or 1,000-gallon chemical tank, a pump, nozzles and a large fan to blast the spray into the tree. Helicopters are also in use for certain applications, and commercial applicators fill this need.
Air-assisted electrostatic sprayers, like OnTarget, are the third type. These sprayers consist of a trailer, tank and pump like an air blast but do not rely on a big fan to blast the spray. Instead, OnTarget uses a compressed air system to atomize the drop, then give it an electrical charge as it exits the nozzle.
The charged spray cloud envelops the tree canopy, and the drops are electrically attracted to all plant surfaces. There is no runoff, and drift is minimized.
How do growers benefit from OnTarget’s spray technology?
WH: OnTarget’s technology reduces water use by 50% to 80% per acre. It requires 50% less horsepower than air-blast, and the diesel consumption is 50% less. The diesel savings is usually about 3 gallons per hour.
Using less water means sprayer operators don’t have to stop to mix and fill as much. Our 600-gallon tank covers 15 to 20 acres, but a 600-gallon air-blast sprayer covers only four to six acres. OnTarget covers twice as many acres per day and uses 50% less diesel and water.