“Helicopters and agriculture are a unique but priceless combination” says Monique Acton-Adams, general manager of Rotor Solutions Australia. “With our fleet of helicopters we offer a range of services, but most importantly, we can offer the whole package for our customers.”
Monique says weed control is the primary purpose of helicopter spraying, as well as liquid fertiliser application. “Weeds can include anything unwanted; tussock, blackberry and wattle, St Johns, briars, burrs, Patterson’s curse, the list goes on, but each specific weed must be targeted at an individual approach.
“Good methods of application include the correct water rate, specific nozzle choice for water rate, specific nozzle choice for chemical used, and equipment that is calibrated and pattern tested on a regular basis; something we are continually doing.
“Aerial seeding and fertiliser then follow. With the help of adding the correct nutrients and minerals to pasture, competition is minimised, allowing for less weed growth and more of the good stuff coming through. Our state-of-the-art application bucket and quick-loading system allows lower pricing for application from helicopters compared with that of the past, as well as uniform coverage and no product waste.”
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These aircraft also suit all types of farming, with some advantages on top of those already mentioned.
“Helicopters really shine the hills, they can get into those hard-to-reach places as well as tuck into spots that are not accessible by ground or by aeroplane. Manoeuvrability of helicopters permits greater coverage and the ability to slow and hover the aircraft.” This “allows for maximum precision and no off-target application.
“That said, we do find ourselves spending more time in cropping, flat land situations. Many farmers see the benefit of how low the helicopter can sit, and with the blades of the aircraft helping to push chemical into a crop, we find some cropping farmers are permanently converted to helicopter use.”
The list of benefits to using a helicopter for agriculture don’t stop there.
“When piloted and equipped correctly, helicopters can cover an area with speed and precision. Areas that may take a farmer days or even weeks to go over, can be completed in a matter of minutes to hours. Hard to reach places, gullies and hilly terrain are a breeze for the helicopter, and a bird’s eye view of what needs to be covered always gives a better result than looking from the ground.
“We also see utilising the helicopter as more than just quick and efficient.
“One of the biggest benefits for farmers – and the most important – is safety.
“The time old story of dragging hoses up hills and rolling quads or tractors; the risk just isn’t worth it. We have been working with some Landcare groups on the importance of safe practice on farms and how to help minimise risk, this being one of those ways.”
We asked what would farmers be looking to achieve with a helicopter service in the next few months.
“This time of year, with the late summer rain we have been having, we will see growth of unwanted summer weeds, some we would have thought dormant for the season, including briar, burrs and a late burst in blackberry growth. As usual for the summer, blackberry spraying is a large part of what we do over the warmer months, but many area have seen a lot of St Johns, thistles and burrs even into January and now February.
“Coming into the autumn, if rain and moisture allows, customers can look at seeding and fertiliser application to help boost soil content and growth coming into the winter months. Autumn is also the time for spraying lovegrass and serrated tussock before the cold sets in for the winter. We conduct spraying programs throughout the season in the South East of the state, helping councils, shires and local Landcare [groups] put programs together.”