The Marion County economy has been getting a boost in recent days from an aerial agricultural spraying operation arranged by Ag Services of Hillsboro and based at Marion City Airport.
Tyree Ag of Kinsley has been using the airport as its base of operations for two airplanes that have been spraying fungicides on wheat fields for Ag Services customers in Marion, Chase, McPherson, Harvey, Butler, and Morris counties.
“We’re sitting at about 12,000 acres that we’ve got lined up, and it probably will be a little more by the time we’re all done,” Ag Services agronomist Jeff Mayfield said.
“This is something we usually do with our ground equipment, but we’ve just had rain, the wheat’s wet, and we’ve got four or five days to get this done,” Mayfield said. “We have to put this on before the wheat starts to pollinate, so we brought this in and the farmers can rest easy that we’re going to get it done for them.”
The application of the fungicides means increased yields for the farmers, and Mayfield said aerial application adds to that.
“We usually say a 10 percent yield increase with these fungicides. It’s hard to say, but that’s what we hope for,” Mayfield said. “A ground rig will typically drive down anywhere from two to three percent of the wheat. The plane doesn’t drive it down.”
This is the second time this spring Mayfield has called on the services of Tim Tyree’s airplanes, which were in Marion two weeks ago spraying approximately 6,000 acres of alfalfa fields.
“My wife is originally from Kinsley, and that’s where Tim lives,” Mayfield said. “We’re just personal friends, and it grew into this.”
Mayfield and Tyree first collaborated on a spraying operation three years ago based out of the Moundridge airport, but the pair needed a more centralized location to maximize efficiency. When planning the alfalfa spray this spring, Mayfield decided to try Marion.
“I just called the city of Marion out of the blue and asked them what the possibilities would be, the airport board met, and they said we could make a trial run,” Mayfield said.
Marion City Airport Authority Chariman Dick McLinden touted the economic benefits to Marion County.
“There’s several thousand acres right here in Marion County, and all the money is flowing through Ag Services in Hillsboro, so it’s Marion County,” McLinden said.
McLinden contrasted the estimated impact of the alfalfa operation with the current wheat spraying one.
“That amounted to around $108,000 of income generation in the county,” McLinden said. “This deal is going to be around an eighth of a million.”
The airport will benefit from a usage fee paid by Ag Services based on the total amount of acres sprayed, Marion City Administrator Doug Kjellin said.
“If they apply on 5000 acres, they give us a check for $500,” Kjellin said. “We will be reserving those funds for repair and maintenance at the airport.”
Kjellin described the situation as a “win-win” for all involved.
“We don’t have to make any modifications to the airport, they’re fully contained with their chemicals,” Kjellin said. “It keeps the cost down for the agricultural producer and provides a small revenue stream for the airport. I’m glad the city has these facilities to support our local agricultural producers.”