In 2008, my wife and I bought Sunrise Dusters, which is now located on a facility where my father worked as an ag pilot when I was growing up. Although I don’t fly the planes myself, I feel like I have come full circle. My business philosophy is that I use the airplanes to serve the people who have entrusted me with their business.
Unusually wet weather last spring decreased our acreage because a lot of ground stayed flooded past planting time. We also water-seeded on windier days than we normally would because there wasn’t time to wait for ideal planting conditions. We were about three weeks behind our April 20 schedule. However, all of our farmers did a good job and were able to get their rice crop out at harvest time.
Advancements In Technology
I believe the satellite guidance system is one of the biggest improvements in aerial application technology. While the pilot is spraying, the satellite keeps a moving map logged into the system. He can see where he has been and where he has not been. For example, if weather conditions change and the pilot has to quit spraying, he can go back at a later date and pick up where he left off and not miss a beat.
Also, there is less drift with some of the newer nozzles, and the turbine engines on today’s airplanes are much safer for the pilots than the old piston engines. The airframes dedicated to crop dusting also are much stronger.
An aerial application challenge in our area is that very few liquid rice herbicides can be applied by air because of sensitive crops in close proximity to rice fields. However, today’s granular herbicide formulations, such as Granite GR, are convenient for us to use. Our equipment is designed to handle the packaging efficiently, and we typically can make a herbicide application on a 150-acre rice field with one load of granular material. Farmers generally prefer aerial applications because they don’t rut up the field and are faster and less expensive than running ground rigs.
Communication Is Key
Communication during planting season is very important. If the farmers and PCAs can let us know 48 hours ahead of time when a field is ready to plant, we can reserve a slot for them and make sure the seed is where it is supposed to be. Part of my job is to protect the farmer’s investment and keep them informed throughout the day.
I do a lot of driving to see if anything happened overnight. For example, water can leak out of the field if wind damages a levee, or the field may not fill up as fast as we thought it would. Communicating these situations to the farmer gives them a heads up, and we can adjust the planting schedule to coincide with when the field is actually ready.
Intrepid 2F Insecticide Applications
In 2016 and 2017, we also flew on Intrepid 2F insecticide where rice farmers had armyworm problems that pyrethroids no longer controlled. Our customers liked it because the worms stopped eating as soon as they were sprayed. Within a couple days, you could see dead worms floating on the water.
Intrepid is safe for my ground crews and doesn’t disrupt beneficial insects — including bees — which allows us to cover more acreage in the morning. Before Intrepid was available, we applied a carbaryl insecticide. However, it had restrictions in regard to propanil herbicide. If you applied propanil, you had to wait two weeks to apply carbaryl to avoid damaging the rice. So for many practical reasons, Intrepid is an important material in our area.
All of my customers have positive attitudes and enjoy what they do. I encourage them to keep up the good work.
- Employs two pilots at Sunrise Dusters who fly Air Tractor AT-602s
- Keeps up with the day-to-day operations for Sunrise Dusters to make sure everything runs smoothly
- Oversees aerial applications on rice, walnuts, tomatoes, sunflowers, corn, beans and alfalfa
- Married to wife, Joni. Son Jared, 36. Daughters Keri, 34, and Jena, 28. Granddaughter Kaydence, 13, and grandson Cohen, 8.
- Is involved in an organization in Yuba and Sutter counties that raises money for downed law enforcement officers and their families
- Enjoys spending time with his grandchildren, participating in church activities, water skiing, snow skiing, shooting and building WWII model airplanes