Crop producers will spend more than $5 billion on farm chemicals in 2014. That’s a big number, but the true cost of spraying could be much higher because some materials won’t hit their targets or they will drift on to neighbor’s fields or expensive vegetable and flower gardens.

Farmers don’t like to talk about misapplication or drift, but both have been a fact of life in many farming communities for years and could be about to become even more important with the introduction of new herbicide-tolerant traits that are resistant to dicamba and 2,4-D in 2015 and 2016.

To help address such problems, Willmar Fabrication is introducing a new product, the Redball Gen II Broadcast Spray-Hoods. The Spray-Hoods are configured to make it easier for farmers and custom applicators to be good stewards of the land by “putting a hood on spray drift” and improving spray coverage and effectiveness of chemicals.

“U.S. farmers will spend more than $5 billion on chemicals this season to protect their crops, and Willmar wants to make sure those chemicals hit their target and drift is kept to a minimum,” says Steve Claussen, president of Willmar Fabrication. “Using hooded sprayers during ground applications has the potential to minimize pesticide drift, especially when combined with other drift reduction technologies.”

Hooded sprayers were a mainstay of weed control strategies back in the pre-Roundup Ready era. With the resistance problems that have developed with glyphosate and other herbicides in recent years, farmers are looking at older chemistries and technologies.

The Gen II Broadcast Spray-Hoods could be a plus for growers for two reasons – 1) by reducing the potential for drift in broadcast herbicide applications such as Burndown and postemergence spraying and 2) by offering retrofit kits that enable applicators to upgrade open boom sprayers with the Redball Gen II Hoods.

The company’s new SPK 645 Self-Propelled Broadcast Hooded Retrofit Kit, for example, allows growers and custom applicators to convert to hood spraying in a matter of minutes.

Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln have shown that Redball Gen II Broadcast Hoods offered up to a 90 percent drift reduction in the first four meters downwind from the spray pattern compared to open-boom sprayers.

The test at the West Central Research and Extension Center in North Platte, Neb., was conducted in an 8-mph wind. Three spray tips were used on both the hooded sprayer and the open-boom. With all three, the researchers achieved greater coverage when using them in conjunction with Redball Gen II Broadcast Hoods.

The companies working to develop the new herbicide-tolerant traits that are expected to be approved for next year have been conducting extensive research on spray tips and less volatile spray formulations. But Claussen believes it will take more to avoid drift problems.

“Farmers should be using the correct spray tips, the proper adjuvants and formulations and Broadcast Hoods,” he said. “When you put all these things together, that’s when you have the best applications. I’m not saying you always have to use hoods, but when you need them, they make the application better.”

Broadcast Hoods provide multiple benefits, he notes. “When compared to an open-boom sprayer, a Willmar broadcast hooded sprayer allows for better time management, more timely application and increased sprayer value. Hoods allow you to spray on days when spraying with an open-boom would be very difficult.

“On top of that, hoods greatly improve the placement and thus, efficacy, of the chemicals being applied whether it’s insecticides, herbicides, fungicides or defoliants.”

The company also offers the Redball Gen II Hoods on its other sprayer equipment, including the WF642 three-point hitch broadcast hooded sprayer with wheel boom, the WF645 three-point tractor-mounted broadcast hooded sprayer with suspended boom and the SPK645 self-propelled broadcast hooded boom.