The amount of chemical and fertiliser applied by aviation is back about 10% for the first six months of this year, and the amount of hours flown down about a quarter.
Data released by the NZ Agricultural Aviation Association (NZAAA) shows that in the year ended December 2022, 637,000 tonnes of agricultural product was applied by aircraft to farms, back significantly on the 714,000t a year earlier.
That decline continued in the first six months of this year, with lower volumes applied and fewer hours flown than for the same period in the last two years.
For the first half of this year aircraft, both fixed wing and helicopter, flew 33,051 hours compared with more than 45,300 hours for the same periods in 2022 and 2021.
The volumes applied are also significant back.
For the first half of this year, 239,832t were applied compared to 404,685t for the same period last year and 390,004 in 2021.
NZAAA chairman Bruce Peterson says it is a tough time for farmers as well as aviation companies, but it is not new.
He says farmers are applying lighter volumes, making use of lime and innovations such as variable rate application.
Peterson says in addition to the well-publicised rising costs, in the last year a new aircraft engine has increased 13% and will increase a further 8% in January.
Engineers and support staff are also in short supply.
Tony Michelle, the NZAAA executive officer, says the reduction in aerial spraying activity is not as marked as it is for topdressing and there has been offset to some degree by activity in the pest control and biodiversity management.
He says operators stepped up to assist events on the east coast of the North Island using their local knowledge.
“Yes, we are facing some headwinds, however our industry has faced many challenges in the past.
“We are an adaptive industry entering an exciting age of innovation and technology that will continue to provide a platform to deliver for our clients and stakeholders.”
It is understood that special non acidulated fertiliser blend that includes lime, costs just under $290/t to be applied by helicopter in addition to transport costs of about $60/t to a farm. This gives a total bill of about $300,000.