Crop Planting, Cultivating, and Protecting

SIC 0721

Industry report:

This group covers establishments primarily engaged in performing crop planting, cultivating, and protecting services. Establishments engaged in complete maintenance of citrus groves, orchards, and vineyards are classified in SIC 0762: Farm Management Services.

The crop planting, cultivating, and protecting industry encompasses a variety of services, including aerial dusting and spraying; bracing of orchard trees and vines; citrus grove cultivation; corn detasseling; hoeing; insect control for crops, with or without fertilizing; irrigation system operation; planting crops; pruning orchard trees and vines; weed control; and other miscellaneous activities. The highly fragmented industry is dominated by small, private, local companies. As a result, statistical data on this group is scant.

Most industry activities, such as corn detasseling and hoeing, are relatively self-explanatory. One of the larger and more complex services is aerial application, or crop dusting, which usually entails dusting or spraying crops with pesticides and weed control chemicals from an airplane. Aerial application is used for more than 65 percent of crop chemical applications in the United States, according to the National Agricultural Aviation Association (NAAA). Besides increasing the speed and efficiency of the dusting process, aerial crop dusting eliminates the need to apply chemicals with wheeled vehicles that could damage crops. The crop dusting industry faced repeated shutdowns in 2001 after the September 11 terrorist attacks raised concerns that crop dusters could be used to spread biological contaminants.

The need for crop services is an indicator of the trend toward advanced, large-scale farming practices that accelerated during the post-World War II U.S. economic expansion. During the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, U.S. farms became increasingly mechanized to take advantage of economies of scale. Importantly, the development of advanced pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, and other chemical treatments resulted in an entire chemical application services industry. Likewise, new machinery significantly increased the amount of cultivated land that a single landowner could efficiently manage. Aerial crop dusting, performed as early as the 1920s using World War I surplus aircraft, for example, gave way to advanced higher-altitude craft by the early 1950s.

Indeed, while farmers during the early 1900s usually performed most crop management activities, many farm owners in the 1990s were more business owners and managers than conventional farmers. Farm owners commonly contracted planting and seeding, irrigation, pest control, and other duties to specialized outside service providers.

The trend toward greater farm automation continued into the first years of the twenty-first century. Aerial crop dusting, for example, became a complex, high-tech endeavor, with advanced crop dusting systems employing global positioning systems (GPS) to indicate precise location and to show which rows of crops need dusting. These modern systems were more efficient than the previously used flagging system, which required flag men on the ground to communicate where spraying or dusting was needed. Modern aerial dusters, which cost anywhere from $100,000 to $500,000, also benefit from on-board computers that automatically control spray width and coverage density. Computer systems are also capable of plotting fields and provide information about the best path for dusting a certain area, taking into consideration applicable weather conditions. Crop dusters also use computers to keep track of the types and amounts of chemicals used, as well as when and where they were sprayed.

Environmental safety of crop protection products (chemicals used to control insects, diseases, and/or weeds) became an increasingly important focus in the 1990s and 2000s. According to a report released by the National Center for Food and Agriculture Policy in November 2000, pesticide sales in the United States increased 93.7 million pounds between 1992 and 1997. Fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, and other pesticides were also on the rise, making this industry, and its impact on the environment, a significant public concern. While the Food Quality Protection Act, signed into law in August 1996, provided some significant changes in food safety and pesticide laws, including major revisions in pesticide registration and use provisions of chemicals, pesticide use remained a controversial issue into the 2000s.

State representatives continued to promote legislation regulating pesticide use, and, despite a 1997 report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that indicated pesticide usage among U.S. farms had dropped significantly since the all-time high in 1979, activist groups contended that pesticide use was on the rise, and controversy over the safety of pesticides grew stronger. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that between 1999 and 2001, total farm expenditures on agricultural chemicals declined from $9 billion to $8.5 billion. However, beginning in the mid-years of the first decade of the 2000s, this figure started to rebound, from $9 billion in 2006 to $11.7 billion in 2008. Some environmentalist groups, such as Friends of the Earth International, argued that this rise in pesticide use and expenditure was partially due to the increase in genetically modified (GM) crops, which others claimed require reduced amounts of pesticides. Research and debate on GM crops and pesticide use continued into the second decade of the twenty-first century.

CropLife America, formerly known as the American Crop Protection Association, an organization to which most major pesticide manufacturers and distributors belong, has been instrumental in providing information on regulatory changes as well as promoting the environmentally sound use of crop protection products. CropLife notes that pesticides used on U.S. farm fields are rigorously tested, and only about one out of 20,000 pesticides is approved for usage on crops. Still, such groups as the Environmental Working Group and Pesticide Action Network North America continued to lobby for more stringent controls on pesticide use and advocate less toxic pest control methods, such as crop rotation, introduction of beneficial insects, mulching, and use of low-toxicity pesticides such as sulfur, soaps, and biopesticides.

Despite resistance to the use of pesticides, the demand for crop dusting services was growing, according to a September 2009 article in America's Intelligence Wire. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported that the number of hours flown by crop dusters reached 1.4 million in 2007, an increase of 29 percent since 2003. The FAA attributed the rise in crop dusting activity, which occurred mostly in the Midwest farming states, to new products that fight late-season diseases and pests. The organization reported that there were 200 crop dusters in Iowa in 2009, as compared to about 40 in the 1990s. Wisconsin also saw an increase in number of pilots dusting crops, from 55 to 78 between 2007 and 2009, and the number of crop dusting pilots doubled in that same time period in Illinois.

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News and information about Crop Planting, Cultivating, and Protecting

The Capital Times; October 22, 1999; 700+ words diagnostic substances, animal services excluding veterinary, pharmaceutical preparations and crop planting, cultivating and protecting. The magazine ranked the states using research done by the U.S Labor Bureau, with 1997 being the...
The Capital Times; October 22, 1999; 700+ words diagnostic substances, animal services excluding veterinary, pharmaceutical preparations and crop planting, cultivating and protecting. The magazine ranked the states using research done by the U.S Labor Bureau, with 1997 being the...
Court confirms tax on co-op's fertilizer.(Newsline)
Rural Cooperatives; November 1, 2003; 279 words
...a tax-exempt agricultural service, noting CAS was not involved in applying the fertilizer or in planting, cultivating and protecting crops. The cooperative contended the storage and sale were a single transaction and tax exempt.
Forestry Services
Mena Report; January 8, 2013; 509 words
...renewal - 16.04 ha, cultivating land - 537.73 acres, pruning, planting a crop formation - 3.32 ha...firebreaks - 10 acres, fencing crop - 123, 45 HM, removal...63.99 HM, mechanical protecting crops - 1.93 ha. Total final...
Quail Woods Farm is committed to stewardship, soil testing, cover crops.
Southeast Farm Press; April 6, 2005; 700+ words to plant crops here. Perhaps that...their use of cover crops. In eastern difficult for crop roots and rainfall...this problem by cultivating or pulling a chisel...likelihood of erosion. Planting cover crops, however, may...farming depends on protecting soil ...
Eat your greens - all year round; Get planting now and you can give yourself a constant supply of homegrown veg right through to next spring, says Monty Don.(Features)
Daily Mail (London); April 11, 2009; 700+ words
...and winter salad crops such as rocket...nitrogen that these crops leave in the soil...surface mulch before planting. CULTIVATING BRASSICAS All brassicas...week or two before planting will help raise...nurture these, protecting them from slugs...
Root rustlers: in Appalachia, a new cash crop could save forests and communities--if poachers don't get it first. (Outfront).(American ginseng)
Mother Jones; July 1, 2002; 700+ words
...regions have begun planting the herb on their...landowners while protecting their forests from...ginseng, we're not cultivating it, just protecting the plant." experimental crop. "They stole my...permit to sell their crop. Ginseng brokers...legally buy only crops ...
Reluctance to Read News about the Environment: `... Trying to Convince People about the Importance of Protecting the Environment Sometimes Falls on Deaf Ears.' (Environment Reporting)
Nieman Reports; December 22, 2002; 700+ words
...and chosen the best time for planting crops by studying the position and...fertilizers and pesticides in cultivating the land was unheard of. Similar...people about the importance of protecting the environment sometimes falls...

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