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With the summer like temperatures last week, I couldn't keep myself out of the field.  I took advantage of the warm weather to burn down the grass on the banks and burn off some bean straw piles in the field in uncharacteristic comfort - a short sleeve shirt in March.  And although the calendar scared me away from working any ground, that volunteer wheat which I left in the field last fall to prevent the ground from blowing was starting to look a bit big.  So I rushed home from work, un-winterized the sprayer, moved the GPS onto my small tractor and figured it was a good time to wipe out some wheat before it got too big.

I have never used roundup to burn down a field before, I usually work the ground.  The first use of the GPS is normally spreading urea on the wheat, and for some other unknown reason the number 40ft was in my mind.  So that was what I set my GPS for, a 40ft swath, and headed out to the field with my 35ft sprayer.

Now with normal marker on the drill or planter I always check them to ensure they are set right, but why didn't I check the GPS?  Are electronics immune from basic inspection?  All I had to do was get off the tractor once, and it would have been clear that the sprayer wasn't covering the ground I expected it too.  So with a third of my tank sprayed out I got to thinking, those tire tracks seem a bit far, three rounds in before I notice and realize I don't own a 40ft sprayer!  

Being too frugal to buy the expensive GPS systems, I can't adjust my width or target row without loosing my orientation.  So with a minus 5ft on each pass I finish the tank.  Bad news was one of the spray tips started leaking so I had to make repairs before doing another batch, and although they were easy to make, the sun was down before I could do any more.  

The opportunity - I always wondered how much overspray my equipment had.  Once the wheat starts to change it will be very obvious its not 5ft, but how wide will those green strips be?  I used 0.5L per acre, with 5 test strips I will be able to see how application date and concentration effect the kill off.  The field is relatively clean, I am only trying to keep the wheat from plugging the cultivator when I work the ground before planting some IP soybeans, so I don't have much too loose other than the pride in my work.  But this is one error I won't waste.  Its unfortunate i will make a few extra tracks in the field, but those narrow strips will get sprayed with a mostly empty tank to reduce soil compaction, and if the end kill is good, I will know that an early rush to kill off wheat is not necessary or conversely is very important.  But most important - just like a traditional marker, my GPS will get checked during the very first round every time I set it up in the future.  

This makes one more reason why I like farming, I made a mistake, but now I am that much wiser because of it.  

I wonder if that is why all those older farmers seem to know so much.

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Comment by Robert Campbell on April 15, 2012 at 11:10am

thank you for finding time to write these tales and misadventures.

Comment by OntAG Admin on March 29, 2012 at 1:55pm

Hi Gus,

We have all made mistakes like this at the start of the spring...it is called testing.

Good luck this spring and be safe.


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