Demand for aerial spraying sky high

Kate MatthewsCountryman

Wet paddocks have forced farmers to take to the sky to apply fertiliser, insecticide and fungicide to crops as the growing season heads into spring.

Aerial contractors are reporting a busy season and increased demand in parts of the Great Southern and Avon Valley.

In Kojonup, primary producers Craig and Liz Heggerton have enlisted the help of helicopter contractor after recording close to 300mm of rain from April to August.

“We just can’t get on some paddocks due to waterlogging and in our area a plane isn’t really feasible because of the undulating country and amount of trees, ” Mr Heggerton said.

“The helicopter has a more accurate application and can cover more country in a day than a plane because you can set up what is being sprayed in the corner of the paddock without having to go back to the airstrip.”

When speaking to the Countryman last week Goodwin McCarthy Helicopters pilot Brian Goodwin said of the areas they had visited, Kojonup was the wettest.

With business partner Kimi McCarthy, they cover the South Coast region from Esperance to Albany. “The winter aerial spraying season in WA is very short and at the moment farmers are saying it’s too wet, so we are assisting them to take care of their crops, ” Mr Goodwin said.

In the off season, the helicopter is used for work with Department of Environment and Conservation looking after national parks, FESA, for search and rescue operations and is equipped with an ambulance kit.

In New Zealand where Mr Goodwin and Ms McCarthy are from, helicopters are used year round by farmers including in summer to spray out weeds.

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