Canola School: Looking at drift in a different way


When we think of sprayer drift, we usually associate it with wind, but there are other environmental factors that influence where droplets end up.

Tom Wolf, spray specialist with Agrimetrix and, takes a fun twist on learning more about spray drift in this Canola School video, using…a bubble machine.

“The bubbles fly just like a tiny droplet might fly when we are spraying. It lets us see where the air is moving – we know the wind direction – but it also lets us see how the turbulence in the atmosphere is. If it’s sunny for example, we tend to have thermal turbulence and that tends to vertically mix the droplets up and it moves them. So actually when they are downwind, they have a lot less impact,” he says, as the Don Ho tune “Tiny Bubbles” plays in the background.

Wolf explains how the time of day makes a difference on where your droplets go and how they settle.

“If we were to do this in the early morning or the late evening or night, likely we’d have an inversion. And we’d be able to see that on the bubble machine. The bubbles would likely stay at a fixed height and they wouldn’t disperse at all. That’s the danger. They will move in a concentrated way off target, and wherever they end up. They still can do significant damage. So in some ways, the wind and the sun are actually our friends as they dilute the spray,” exclaims Wolf.

He says the idea of looking and analyzing a bubble machine came from his partner Brian, when he playing with his granddaughter and her bubble machine one day, and he noticed how the different bubbles reacted.

The use of the bubble machine has not only made things fun and entertaining for Wolf, but he’s also made some important observations.

“I’m always surprised on a sunny day, these bubbles will go up maybe 30 metres in the air, within 5 or 10 seconds from the time we released them. And that tells us on a sunny day we get a tremendous amount of dispersion, and so the drift impact downwind isn’t actually that strong.”

Check out this video with Tom for more on how environmental factors impact drift, filmed during CanolaPalooza ’17:

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