Print Version | Newsletter Home | NAAA Home
National Agricultural Aviation Association eNewsletter
Voice of the Aerial Application Industry
June 2, 2022
NAAA Operator Member Explains Adverse Effects a Proposed Wind Project Will Have on Minnesota Aerial Applicators, Farmers
A Minnesota aerial applicator did such a thorough job explaining the adverse effects a proposed wind energy project would have on aerial applicators and the farmers they serve in the affected area that his comments to a state official conducting an environmental review serve as an outstanding model for any aerial applicators grappling with infrastructure projects that could affect their ability to serve area farmers.

Ryan Lubben owns West Central Ag-Air Inc. in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, but has frequently spent time applying fungicides and insecticides on farms a few hours south of Fergus Falls in Dodge County, Minnesota. His comments to an environmental review manager at the Minnesota Department of Commerce systematically explain why the NextEra Energy Resources Dodge County Wind Project, as currently planned, would be incompatible with aerial applicators’ ability to safely provide services to farmers located within the wind project’s widespread footprint.

As an opening salvo, Lubben provided facts about the aerial application industry and his company’s operations, but then he went several steps further to highlight the importance of aerial application to farmers and clearly illustrate the unacceptable safety risks the densely clustered wind turbine project would present to aerial applicators. The comments came together rather quickly once he gathered a few Surety maps and overlayed his GPS logs onto them.

Before getting into the hazards of the proposed wind farm, Lubben gave examples of three reasons why growers need to retain the ability to use ag aircraft. The three reasons he cited were efficiency, economics and environmental benefits. For his economics example, Lubben wrote:

Growers in the area typically get an average of a 17 bushel increase in corn yield by applying a fungicide during the tassel stage of development. (Per conversation with a local grower) Using today’s cash corn price of $7.63/bushel, this equates to an increase of $129 per acre. My company would charge roughly $21/acre for this application including chemical. That translates to $108 per acre of profit for the farmer, or a 500% return on investment!
Lubben then moved into the “show” portion of his show-and-tell comments, using his own Surety maps and GPS logs to illustrate to the environmental review manager how the proposed wind turbine construction would jeopardize his and other aerial applicators’ ability to safely enter, exit and return to farmers’ fields in the areas surrounded by the wind turbine clusters and the associated transmission line.

Lubben included the map below of the Dodge County Wind Project area and explained that the GPS flight tracks from his operation for one season were overlaid onto it.

FIG. 1

Next, Lubben illustrated safe turnaround distances necessary to make aerial applications safely (see Fig. 2 below):


FIG. 2

This map shows the GPS flight tracks from a typical field being sprayed. The blue lines are the flight path and the red lines are the actual spray swaths.

As you can see, the aircraft needs quite a large area to have room in order to turn around on the end of the field. In fact, most of the flying takes place outside of the field being treated. The distance needed for this particular aircraft is approximately ¾ of a mile. As a rule of thumb, and [the] aircraft needs a full mile of distance on the end of the field to make a safe turn around. Obstacle free turn around areas is critical for these aircraft as the turnaround maneuver is when the aircraft is quite slow and vulnerable to an aerodynamic stall. The applicator must remain focused at this point and cannot be distracted by obstacles, and must have ample room to make the maneuver.

Finally, Lubben included a map showing the proposed locations of the Dodge Center wind turbines in the western portion of the project area (see Fig. 3).

FIG. 3

Each red dot indicates a turbine location. I have highlighted the fields in yellow which would not meet the criteria of having a one mile turn around obstacle free zone on the end of the field. I estimate this map to be a conservative representation of what fields cannot be serviced by ag aircraft. … this is just a portion of the wind farm area. There will be many more fields affected.


 Clearly this proposed wind farm will have far reaching impacts on growers in the area in regard to aerial application. Quite frankly the density and random turbine layout will make it impossible for aerial applicators to work safely. Furthermore, it may be impossible for growers in the area to even entice an applicator to come in and do any work in the larger area.

Lubben isn’t opposed to all wind turbine projects and has even had success working around another wind energy site not far from the proposed NextEra Energy Resources wind project. He closed his comments by pointing out the distinctions between the two wind projects:

The incredibly large scope and density of the Dodge County wind turbine layout is what is the issue here. Changes can be made for the area to keep aerial application while still producing wind power. A perfect example of this is the McNeilus wind farm located just two miles south of the Dodge Center airport. This wind farm has the towers lined up and contained in a small area. I have actually been quite comfortable spraying fields in this area because I know I can exit the turbine area in a straight line and make my turn arounds outside of the wind farm. This could easily be done in the proposed wind farm by orientating the wind towers in groups or in straight lines and leaving a mile buffer between groups or lines to allow room for aircraft turn arounds.

Lubben’s full comments are available here. NAAA commends Ryan for his sophisticated yet simplified explanation of the ramifications that ill-planned wind energy projects can inflict on aerial applicators and their farming customers.

Next Article >>
Share this article:  LinkedIn Twitter Facebook
Add a CommentAdd a Comment
View CommentsView Comments ()
This newsletter is intended for NAAA members only. NAAA requests that should any party desire to publish, distribute or quote any part of this newsletter that they first seek the permission of the Association. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent those of the National Agricultural Aviation Association (NAAA), its Board of Directors, staff or membership. Items in this newsletter are not the result of paid advertising and are only meant to highlight newsworthy developments. No endorsement by NAAA is intended or implied.
NAAA Operator Member Explains Adverse Effects a Proposed Wind Project Will Have on Minnesota Aerial Applicators, Farmers
Brazilian, U.S. Aerial Application Have Solid Diplomatic Relations
NAAREF In-Season Safety Session on Monday, June 6
Register for InfoAg Conference at the TFI Member Rate
In Case You Missed It!
NAAA Earns Solid Returns for News Release Promoting ‘Find Aerial Applicator’ Public Database
NAAA Joins National Ag Coalition Expressing Concern Over the White House’s Reversal of Federal Support of Pesticide Preemption Policy
C-PAASS: 2023 Coming Soon
Exhibitor Details for the 2022 Ag Aviation Expo: Booth Sales for Aircraft & Large Booth Space Now Open
Beware of Fraudulent Company Trying to Book Hotel Rooms for NAAA Ag Aviation Expo
Bullet Strikes Texas Operator’s Ag Plane During Morning Corn Application
NAAA Members Promote Careers in Agricultural Aviation to North Dakota Fifth Graders
Changes to EPA’s Application Exclusion Zone Continue to be on Hold
Ag Aviation Expo Sponsorships Available—Boost Your Company’s Brand!
Shine a Light on the Industry’s Unsung Heroes!
We All Have a Telling History: Use Yours and NAAA’s Materials to Broadly Communicate Agricultural Aviation’s
NAAA Releases Book of the Century! Buy It Today

July 9

Full Calendar of Events
2022 Ag Aviation Expo Hotel Info
NAAA Award Nomination Forms
Agriculture’s Air Force Book
Aerial Applicators’ Growing Role Video Download Files
GPS Data Collection Project to Protect Ag Aircraft from Drones
2022 NAAA “Ag Wings of Tomorrow” Scholarship
Agricultural Aviation Mag.
NAAA/NAAREF Safety Videos
Customizable Aerial Application DIY Press Releases
NAAA Media Relations Kit
Aerial Application Tax Tips
Tower Outreach Tools
Tower Marking Warning Letters
Shooting-Response Checklist
NAAA UAV Safety Stuffers
NAAA UAV Encounter Checklist
Ag Aviation 101 Presentation
NAAA Professional Operating Guidelines Booklet
Aerial Applicator’s Manual
Contact Us
Search Back Issues
National Agricultural Aviation Association, 1440 Duke Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
Phone: 202-546-5722 | Fax: 202-546-5726 |

To ensure delivery of NAAA eNewsletter, please add ''
and '' to your email address book.

If you are still having problems receiving our emails, see our whitelisting page for more details.
National Agricultural Aviation Association