Having helped northeast Arkansas producers adopt a successful “zero-tolerance” policy on resistant weeds, Andy Vangilder is helping to tackle another issue with weed control.

“We’re trying to help farmers avoid the issues caused by ‘dirty’ sprayers,” says Vangilder, Clay County Extension staff chair. “Over the last few years, all the Extension agents and specialists have been called to fields that have been damaged due to that – the crop is severely burned or, in some cases, has been killed. That’s just because the sprayer wasn’t cleaned out well enough before going into a vulnerable crop.”

Read more on the zero-tolerance movement here, here and here.  

Seven or eight years ago, around northeast Arkansas, this wasn’t a front-burner issue, says Vangilder. “Roundup isn’t too hard to get out of a tank – just wash it out with some cleaner. There wasn’t nearly as much injury in the fields.”

That changed when resistant weeds came on strong in the region. “Now, we’re using all kinds of other chemistries, pre-emerge products to help us out -- everything from Prefix, Flexstar, Liberty to all the rest.

“If half your crop is LibertyLink and half is Roundup Ready and you don’t have a dedicated sprayer for each, it’s easy to get into trouble. Do things wrong and the first round, or two, you make in the sprayer is going to burn the crop. That’s a super problem if you’re a commercial applicator with liability.”

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After seeing so many injured crops, Vangilder and colleagues were moved to hold three sprayer clinics in the Arkansas Delta. The first one is at the Rector Community Center on Nov. 5. The second one is set for Marianna on Nov. 6. The third will be in McGehee on Nov. 7.

Scroll down for exact locations and agenda.

“These clinics will include hands-on demonstrations. Cleaning out the sprayers is the main focus but there will be other things explained: proper tip selection, drift control, electronics, how to upgrade older sprayers. Producers will just get a lot of general knowledge on sprayers and how to deal with different products.

“Some folks still don’t know that different cleaners need to be used for different herbicides.”

How’s the zero tolerance effort going?

“That’s still going on – lots of producers are involved, now. You can really tell just driving the back roads. A few pigweeds still get by us but the majority of producers are spraying turn-rows, ditches, chopping, pulling, whatever it takes.

“The fields have really been cleaned up compared to three years ago. Some still need work but, as a whole, folks here are doing a good job on pigweeds.

“One thing that helped this year was early rains that triggered our pre-emerge applications. In 2012, with the drought, we didn’t get much out of the pre-emerge applications.”

How will these clinics fit in with the new soybean technologies coming?

“That’s another reason we’re doing these. We need to be ready when those come on line.

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 “In 2015, dicamba soybeans are supposed to be released. If you don’t do a proper job cleaning dicamba out of the tank and then go spray regular soybeans, it’s almost as severe as spraying cotton with 2,4-D.

“The combination of these new technologies and a lack of a good clean-out program will lead to a disaster. That’s just a fact.

“The companies are telling us they’re going to help with drift. That’s yet to be seen. But these clinics will also address drift control.”