The Syngenta SPRAY Awards provide entrants with a great opportunity to have their operation reviewed by experts and to network with other leading applicators who are happy to share ideas and advice, according to 2009 Queensland winner Daniel Serra and judge John Kent.
The SPRAY Awards, currently in their third year, were established by Syngenta to promote best practice in spray application and to find Australia's best applicator. The winner will be rewarded with an overseas study tour and a SPRAY Awards prize package valued at over $15,000.
Associate Professor John Kent, who is on the judging panel for the third time this year, recently retired from his role as Head of the School of Agricultural and Wine Sciences at Charles Sturt University.
He says the SPRAY Awards give recognition to applicators who are applying rigorous standards to every part of the application process.
“If we could get the whole industry to the standard of our finalists it would be fantastic. I was very, very impressed with the chemical management and application the first two years’ finalists demonstrated. As a judge, I am looking for best practice in chemical management right from the time of purchase. This includes storage, handling, understanding the technical side of application like nozzle selection and understanding weather conditions, timing, clean up and record keeping, and compliance with legislation.”
Apart from acknowledging top sprayers, John says the Awards provide entrants with a good opportunity to take a close look at their operations and see where they can improve.
“This is a very high tech business, and the SPRAY Awards give entrants the chance to closely review their own operations, benchmark their work and compare notes with experts in the field. It takes some time to complete the application, but anyone thinking about it should go for it! The benefits are enormous. I know of some past participants who have used what they learned during this program to improve their operations.”
Daniel Serra agrees the program is valuable. “It’s really important because it highlights what a technical job spray application is. Just through talking to the other finalists I really learned a lot,” he says. “It was great to meet those other sprayers, and the Awards night during AgQuip in Gunnedah was great fun.”
Daniel’s spray operation has changed a lot since he entered in 2009, but he says the tips and tricks he learned throughout the program were still proving useful.
At the time of his state win, Daniel was doing a lot of boom spraying on his family’s 280 hectare farm at Tolga on the Atherton Tableland, where he was growing bananas, mangoes, peanuts and potatoes, as well as pawpaw, corn and other vegetables. He took out the state title after demonstrating sound application procedures to minimise off target contamination.
These days, Daniel is growing mainly bananas and pawpaw, so while he still uses the boom to spray his small peanut crop, most of his spraying activity involves using a mister to apply product to his trees.
“Spraying with a mister is much harder than using a boom. You’re basically injecting the product into the air, so you have to be very careful to follow the wind and really think about the weather and conditions. The principles are the same, but applied in a new way. Spray pressure and droplet sizes are still important, it’s just trickier to get it right because the trees are in the air.
“This year has been good for peanut because it’s been wet, but some people still had disease problems even though they were spraying. There are people around here still using the same kind of nozzles they had in the 1950s. I don’t have the latest equipment but I use the right nozzles and my peanuts are clean and perfect. I really think that nozzle selection is one of the most important things for spraying.”
Daniel is deciding whether to enter the SPRAY Awards again this year, and encourages other applicators to think about it too. “It’s definitely worthwhile, guaranteed,” he says.
The SPRAY Awards are open to operators of all kinds of spraying machinery including ground rigs, aerial sprayers, misters and other specialised spraying equipment.
Applications for the 2011 SPRAY Awards close on 7th April*, so spray applicators thinking of entering should act now. Visit www.syngenta.com.au for more information. All entrants will receive a 12 month subscription to Agricast, Syngenta’s online weather and spray window forecast service.
Click here for more information and to download the application form.
Syngenta is one of the world's leading companies with more than 26,000 employees in over 90 countries dedicated to the purpose of Bringing plant potential to life. Through world-class science, global reach and commitment to customers, Syngenta helps to increase crop productivity, protect the environment and improve health and quality of life. For more information visit www.syngenta.com.au.
* Due to adverse weather conditions affecting large parts of the country in early 2011, we have decided to extend the entry period until Thursday 7th April. Entry forms can be downloaded from the links above.