Dr. Jason Deveau (@spray_guy) has been the OMAFRA Application Technology Specialist since '08. He researches and teaches methods to improve the safe, effective and efficient application of agricultural inputs in specialty crops, field crops and controlled environments. He is the co-administrator of Sprayers101, co-author of the Airblast101 Textbook, a slow cyclist and a slower runner.
This article isn’t about best practices, or social contracts, or innovative new technologies. It’s just a fascinating bit of history. If it has any moral at all, perhaps it’s to remember where we came from. I wonder where we’ll be tomorrow?
Let’s be clear – the practices described in this article are anachronistic and while I shouldn’t judge from my 2020 high-horse, they’re flat-out terrible. Don’t see them through nostalgic eyes. Instead, be thankful that sprayers and practices have evolved.
Here’s the background. A colleague of mine, a grower and well-respected pesticide safety / sprayer expert, recently held a farm auction in Innerkip, Ontario. He sent me a photo of his family sprayer, used in Oxford county in the 50s and 60s. I fell in love with it.
It was used to control broad leaf weeds in cereal crops. He recollected that thistle was a particularly painful issue. Especially when you had to grab hold of the grain sheaves and stook them. I confess I had to look up the term “stook“. They also sprayed a few cereal acres for neighbours, but never too far from home.
The drum was filled with a 1/2 inch hose right from the well, and when the long season was through, it was over-wintered (with whatever spray liquid remained) in the cellar. We’ve come a long way.