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Drought affecting business for crop dusters

WAKARUSA, Ind. – Though Tuesday’s rain helped some, crop dusters are feeling the effects of the drought just like the farmer’s they serve.

David Eby, owner of AgriFlite Services in Wakarusa, has been flying “aerial application” flights for nearly 40-years and said 2012 has been one of the worst in memory.

"Our business has really grown the last four years, but this year the corn is in such a sorry state that people have not put the money in it like they have the last few years," Eby explained.  “It’s the cost plus the potential return on investment; they’re looking at this corn and watching it dry up in front of them.”

Typically this time of year AgriFlite’s business is mostly focused on applying fungicides, with the dry weather this year demand is way down.

“This is a very unusual year, normally this time of year we’d have 12 other airplanes up here, we bring them in from Georgia, Louisiana, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas,” Eby described.  “This year we’re just running our own 5 airplanes and keeping caught up.”

This July AgriFlite has about 30-percent of the workload they would typically have.  The dry weather has attracted pests not normally seen this type of year and that is helping business.

“It’s so dry we have an unusual insect called ‘spider mites’ and they’re breaking out,” explained Eby.  “Been so dry they’ve shown up in corn and we have a lot of seed corn that’s going to be sprayed here in the next couple of days.”

Like most everybody in the agriculture industry, Eby and his employees are praying for more rain.

"We got two inches this morning, so somebody’s been praying,” Eby said.  “Trouble of it is on the corn it's probably too late for a lot of it, it pollinated the last two-weeks and it didn’t have any moisture.”

Eby explained the 2012 might not be too bad for AgriFlite because they have saved money by not contracting more planes and pilots.  Still, he said they’d rather have a good crop to spray.

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