Extension Expertise "Pays Dividends" for Northeast Farmers

George Hamilton’s sprayer calibration work helps farmers save money, improve efficiency
UNH Cooperative Extension specialist George Hamilton leads a farm sprayer calibration workshop

UNH Extension specialist George Hamilton’s work with farmers on sprayer calibration takes him all over the Northeast. In 2017, he visited farms in Pennsylvania and Connecticut, among others, to help farmers in the state better understand sprayer calibration methods. Following Hamilton’s visits, Extension received letters of thanks from two farmers, Jeremey Maliga of Lyman Orchards and Mark A. Boyer of Ridgetop Orchards. Here’s how Hamilton’s expertise and consultations helped their farms save money and improve operations:

Mark A. Boyer, Ridgetop Orchards, Fishertown, Pa.

“You have not only changed the mindset of growers in Pa., you also have tackled an unforeseen element that is now required in most food safety audits. Audit schemes need a third-party sprayer calibration certificate, which Penn State Extension is able to provide. Without your help in the start of their program, I’m not sure that the solution to our problems would have been so seamless.

In the fall of 2014, you first introduced us to the sprayer patternator, which was beyond revolutionary. After that, in the winter of 2015, we purchased our own sprayer patternator and quickly realized how horrible of a job we were doing by not hitting our targets. The sprayer patternator, in conjunction with air induction spray nozzles, allowed us to accurately spray the targeted areas in the tree canopy. Unbeknownst to us, we had been doing it wrong for so many years. I am happy to report that I was able to display this technology to a group of growers in 2016 at a PSU Field Day.

I believe that your efforts in sprayer calibration and patternator training, we have been able to minimize disease outbreaks at peak infection periods, save money due to less rescue spray treatments, prolong our use of insecticides and fungicides due to the correct rate per acre and also save money by not over-spraying. Your introduction of air induction spray nozzle is an extremely cheap fix to a once complex problem. We are now also covering the tree canopies and we can see a difference in our packing house, due to higher pack outs.

I can’t put a numerical figure on how much money we have actually saved with sprayer calibration and your help, but without a doubt it is the best return on investment for a farmer. Thank you for being a leader and being on the cutting edge.”

Jeremey Maliga, Lyman Orchards, Middlefield, Conn.

“To have a resource such as yourself available is invaluable to a farm the size of ours. Your two visits to us will no doubt pay dividends in the long run. I have learned that the most important step is first in calibration and then, secondly, a more in-depth analysis into the spray coverage we are getting here in the orchards.

Going back a few years ago … we had you come down to the farm to help us better understand calibration. Much was gained from that visit and that understanding helped to provide us with the necessary records to satisfy regulations and customer demands at that time. In April 2017 when we purchased the two new sprayers, I once again sought your advice on calibration and working through a few issues we were having. The calibration equipment you have available was invaluable to us and helped to identify and correct the issues. There is no doubt that because of the re-calibration you guided us through that there will be a significant savings to the farm in the tens of thousands of dollars in chemical savings, and that’s not even calculating efficiency improvements and better spray coverage effects on all of our crops. … Your most recent visit (June 2017) was just as informative and important to our farm as the previous two. Now that we have a strong understanding of calibration, we were prepared to move into looking at our overall spray coverage and the effects we can have on that process.  Again, the equipment you have available to you and your availability to us proved to be to our advantage. The patternator rig you brought down for us surely allowed us the opportunity to see the difference between the types of spray nozzles. …  We have no way of calculating the economic gains we might capture from better coverage of fungicides, but I feel confident we will see significant savings when we change over our nozzles to newer styles.

… Anytime I can learn something that makes my farming better for the environment and saves us money and time is a “win-win.” I appreciate all you do, and how much you are able to help us do what we do.”