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Charles Krause uses a cold field emission scanning electron microscope to study pesticide distribution on plant leaves. Link to photo information
ARS plant pathologist Charles Krause studies pesticide distribution on plant leaves. His research team has released software to estimate pesticide drift distances.

Ecologist Stephen Wraight examines nozzles used to spray spores of a natural pathogen of insect pests. Link to photo information
The new software helps ensure that spray nozzles and other equipment and techniques will minimize pesticide drift.

Unique Software for Preventing Pesticide Drift

By Don Comis
July 25, 2005

The first user-friendly computer software for estimating the droplet drift distances for pesticide spray applications has been released by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Ohio State University (OSU) agricultural engineers.

Heping Zhu and Robert Fox at ARS' Application Technology Research Unit in Wooster, Ohio, and Erdal Ozkan at OSU-Columbus named the new software "DRIFTSIM," for Drift Simulator. ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.

The OSU Communications and Technology Office is distributing the DRIFTSIM software for a nominal fee. [To place an order, visit this OSU-CTS web page.] The Windows-based software can help farmers and Extension Service educators minimize pesticide drift by helping them choose equipment, settings and techniques. It also helps manufacturers design pesticide formulations and pesticide spraying equipment to minimize drift potential of their products.

This program extrapolates from a large database of drift distances originally calculated for single droplets of sprayed pesticides with a computational fluid dynamics program called FLUENT. This older program can only be run by specially trained operators, as is true of all other pesticide-drift programs up to now.

Most pesticides are applied with water. Under the wrong conditions, pesticide-laden water droplets can be carried hundreds of feet in the wind. The new software can estimate drift distances for controlled variables, unlike outdoor tests in which the weather and other factors frequently change, confounding experimental outcomes.

To calculate the likelihood of pesticide drift, the program allows pesticide spray operators and manufacturers to specify wind speed, droplet size and speed, nozzle height, operating pressure, air temperature and relative humidity.

DRIFTSIM is a product of the Wooster unit's mission to research new pesticide application technologies for protection of floricultural, nursery, landscape, turf, horticultural and field crops against damage from diseases, pests and adverse environmental conditions, while safeguarding environmental quality and food and worker safety.