The Drive-Along Diaries: Prologue

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About Jason Deveau (Spray Guy)

Dr. Jason Deveau has been the OMAFRA Application Technology Specialist since '08. He researches and teaches methods to improve the safe, effective and efficient application of agricultural sprays 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 an even slower runner.

See all posts by Jason Deveau (Spray Guy).

I feel it’s important to occasionally remind myself why I do what I do, and who I’m doing it for. With that, let me tell you a story.

I was recently asked to give a presentation about spray coverage and drift mitigation to an arborist organization. I agreed but harboured reservations. I’ve given talks of this nature many, many times, but I rarely work with arborists. In preparation I looked back through my files and discovered I’d spoken to them 10 years ago. Coincidently, that was also the last time I’d encountered an arborist.

So, what value could I possibly offer? My concern was that all I’d leave them with was a few “factoids” and the vague sense that they’d been entertained. But would I leave things better than I found them? What could I say that would move the needle and give them something actionable?

Fortunately, I was paired with a veteran sprayer operator and together we worked out a presentation / demonstration. It went over very well, and I was relieved that people were engaged and asked insightful questions. Crisis averted.

I believe the reason it worked was because I asked the operator about the real-world challenges (however unpopular) that he faced. We discussed and agreed upon a few lesser-of-two-evils solutions to share with the group. It was authentic, it was pragmatic, and it was appreciated.

As a result, I decided to dedicate some time this spring/summer to riding along with a variety of sprayer operators as they perform their jobs. If they’d have me, I’d promise to stay out of their hair, acting only as an observer. I wouldn’t make suggestions and I wouldn’t criticize. I would ask the occasional question and I’d watch to see where policy and reality crossed paths.

I was hoping for a few educational experiences that would inform my research trajectory and teach me a few tips and tricks to share at winter meetings. Perhaps I’d reinforce my understanding of spray application, or maybe I’d be forced to re-evaluate my position on what is a technical truth and what is a practical truth. At the very least I would get to see how professionals did their jobs, and which best practices got sacrificed when things didn’t go to plan.

And, while I was at it, I decided to keep a journal to create articles in the vein of “A Day in the Life”. You’re reading the first one right now and I hope you find it as interesting to read about as I did to live it. It’s unlikely you work in all the agricultural spaces I’ll be writing about in this series but keep an open mind. The potential for cross-pollination is enormous; Perhaps your “cousin” sprayer operator has solved a problem you face in your own operation.

And so, given our recent success, my first victim will be my new arborist-friend. You can read all about it here.

A quick selfie in suburbia as I’m guided through a day in the life of an arborist.