The Air Tractor

| 3/2/2011 3:28:29 PM

Tags: air tractor, rusty iron, Sam Moore,

Air Tractor 

Any dedicated lover of Rusty Iron would jump at the chance to buy an Air Tractor – wouldn’t he? C’mon, who ever heard of an “Air Tractor?” This has to be someone’s idea of a joke, or else it’s one of those weird predictions for the future­­.....Right?

Ah ... but Air Tractors do exist, and are rather rare, with more than two thousand built since their introduction in 1958, although the name Air Tractor wasn’t actually used until 1972.

As far back as anyone knows, the only ways to control weeds were the hoe, hand pulling, tillage, mowing, burning and crop rotation. To kill insects, highly toxic compounds such as Paris green, lead arsenate, hydrocyanic acid, and kerosene-soap emulsion were used on fruits and vegetables, even though the dangers of these substances were recognized. After World War II, science seemed to have the answer to everything. The two major problems that farmers had faced for generations were weeds and harmful insects and science had the answers: DDT and 2,4-D, both of them organic chemicals that had been developed just before, or during the war for military use.

DDT was not only effective against most species of insects, but was believed to be safe for humans and animals as well, while 2,4-D killed most harmful weeds. Many chemicals were applied to crops for other reasons as well, such as to strengthen fruit stems to prevent premature falling, and to keep potatoes and turnips from sprouting in storage, while others stimulated growth in crops like flowers and grapes. Foresters used great quantities of chemical sprays to combat tree diseases, such as chestnut blight, white pine blister rust and gypsy moth.

American farmers eagerly embraced DDT and 2,4-D, and began to liberally apply them to their fields and forests. Sprayers were available to apply the chemicals and, while they worked well enough, they were inadequate for large acreages or forests. To meet this need, pioneering flyers converted ancient biplanes in their backyards, and flew them low over fields spewing a fog of chemicals. It was the beginning of the industry then called crop dusting, but known today as aerial application.