According to custom applicators, as many as half of Midwest corn and soybean farmers do their own postemergent applications of chemicals but rely on custom applicators to apply preplant herbicides and insecticides. However, Dr. Dennis Gardisser, extension agricultural engineer with the University of Arkansas, sees a trend toward more commercial applications of postemergent chemicals because of all the regulations applicators must follow.

“It is hard to keep up with,” he says. “An applicator needs to spend about half of his time in school staying up on the labels, regulations and record-keeping requirements just to stay in the ball game. So I see a lot of growers who are saying, ‘I'm going to hire someone to do it because I don't have the time.’”

The advantages of hiring someone to spray your fields are that you are getting a professional job, have less exposure to chemicals, and have no machinery and maintenance expense. On the flip side, doing the job yourself can save money in labor. And you don't have to wait for someone to fit you into his schedule.

“Timing is critical when it comes to applying pesticides, and your application window is usually not very wide,” says Timothy Weber, seed representative and crop division manager with Myers in Lexington, IL. “So the proper equipment, labor and knowledge are very important.” He adds that growers who hire their pesticide application need that service to help spread the workload so it gets done at the proper time and in a timely manner.

Kent Syth, ag equipment dealer with Ag Systems, a distributor for Case IH sprayer equipment, says doing the job yourself can make sense if you have enough acres and available labor. But you must be qualified to do the job. “There is more to the job than just jumping in your rig,” Syth says. “There is a right way and wrong way to do it. And if the wrong way is costing you 5 bu./acre, you'd be better off hiring a professional who is trained to make sure the product is put in the right place.”