Pesticide drift to sensitive sites is a very rare occurrence, but can involve a high liability when it does occur given the value of specialty crops. The topic of pesticide drift has been addressed for many years in Wisconsin, and applicators are generally very aware of such risk. However, the landscape is changing in Wisconsin and therefore warrants a reminder of the extent and distribution of sensitive specialty crops in the state.
In general, the number of Wisconsin specialty crop producers has increased in recent years, while the number of grain growers has decreased over a similar time period (Table 1). There are a few common threads among these farms that increase risk when considering pesticide drift. The average specialty crop farm is small, ranging from an average size of 0.9 acre in floriculture to 90 acres for vegetables. Given the small acreage, these farms are not often “on the radar.” These farms are also interspersed among agronomic crops throughout the state. There is no consolidated specialty crop production area. Finally, specialty crops tend to be tremendously high in value. Cranberries, for example, cost about $35,000 per acre to establish, and production may exceed up to $24,000 per acre in gross value.