AGRICULTURAL sprayer operators who would like to be part of the Syngenta SPRAY Awards have an extra two weeks to lodge an entry.
Adverse weather affecting large parts of Australia during the entry period has prompted the competition organisers to extend the closing date for round one entries until April 7.
"This gives a bit of extra time for those applicators affected by the weather - or simply running late - to get their entries in," said chief judge, Garth Wickson.
The awards are open to farmers, farm employees or spraying contractors, providing the chance to showcase their best practice efforts with their spray gear across a range of crops.
"You don't have to be a huge operator to have a chance in the awards because the judging is very much on a case-by-case basis," Mr Wickson said.
"We go on-farm with State finalists to really see their operation in action."
The overall winner, to be announced at AgQuip field days in northern NSW in August, will receive a study trip to the UK valued at $15,000 in 2012.
SPRAY (which stands for Sustainable, Productive, Responsible Applicator of
the Year) is open to operators of ground rigs, aircraft, orchard misters, or other specialised spraying gear.
SPRAY Awards runner-up in 2009, Evan Lord, described the awards as a great learning experience and valuable not only for "ranking yourself amongst your peers" but also networking and meeting other people striving towards the same goals.
"Spray applicators can cop a bit of a bashing sometimes from people who don't understand how hard we work to be responsible," said Mr Lord, who worked at Ardlethan in southern NSW when he won the State judging.
"It's great for the industry that these awards promote awareness of how hard people are working to do the right thing," he said.
"When I entered the awards I found it was a really good opportunity to take a second look at what I was doing and I actually made a few changes here and there to make sure I was really doing the best job possible."
Since becoming the NSW winner he has been promoted from assistant manager at a "Mukoora", owned by Warakirri Pty Ltd, to farm manager at a new property on Queensland's Darling Downs, "Wyobie".
All of "Wyobie's" 3200 hectares are dedicated to growing sorghum, chickpeas, wheat and cotton.
Winter crops like wheat are grown on land that has been kept weed-free over the previous summer, while summer crops are grown on land kept under fallow for at least the previous winter.
Mr Lord and his team limit the amount of insecticide application required for the cotton crop by growing a combination of conventional and bio-engineered cotton. High levels of nitrogen fertiliser are used on the sorghum.
"I have suggested that our spraying team should enter the SPRAY Awards," he said.
"Having been through the process, it certainly gives me a much better insight into what tips and tricks I can pass onto the guys and what things we need to be really aware of.
"For example, "Wyobie" is surrounded by very sensitive crops, which really limits herbicide options and spraying windows, so we have to be very careful and take those things into consideration each and every time we spray."
These types of sensitivities can make for a very compelling SPRAY Awards entry, according judge and Syngenta technical specialist, Mr Wickson.
"What we're looking for in the winning applicator is a real commitment to excellence, and that includes being aware of your environment and surroundings and modifying your spraying program accordingly," he said.
*See www.syngenta.com.au. to download an entry form.