via Daily Journal
David Kurtz looked out his office at Benoit Aerial Spraying located east of Kankakee and pointed to a part of one of the company’s two grass runways.
“You see that the grass is starting to green up,” Kutz said. “In a couple of weeks, winter wheat will be greening, and we will start spraying.”
By the middle of April, weather permitting, farmers will begin opening fields and planting corn, he added.
Thus starts another season of spraying pesticides. It will keep them busy through October.
The company serves an area from south of Chicago to Danville, and from Interstate 55 to the west over to Winamac, Ind.
Kurtz has owned and operated Benoit Aerial Spraying since 2010, when he purchased it from retiring owner Steve Benoit. Kurtz had been employed by Benoit since 1995.
For the past decade, Kurtz, Dave Lambert and seasonal help have taken care of crops — corn, soybeans, wheat, potatoes and other vegetables — using three Thrush aircrafts built specifically for crop dusting.
“We hope we have a little part in their success,” said Kurtz of local farmers, holding his thumb and index finger barely apart.
For last year’s growing season, Jeff O’Connor, a member of the Kankakee County Soil and Water Conservation District board, has a different view of the company’s impact.
“They worked their butts off to save ours,” O’Connor said.
Last year, the company helped farmers in huge ways by keeping a new fungus at bay, and that’s why Benoit Aerial Spraying has been named the recipient of the Excellence in Agriculture Award as part of the Daily Journal’s 2022 Progress Awards.
The growing season was one of the best in recent memory as Mother Nature provided ideal conditions. That took a turn in late June and early July when farmers started reporting a new fungus hit the area, tar spot. Unfortunately for farmers, they and tar spot share ideal growing conditions.
And when conditions are ideal for tar spot — which is caused by the fungus Phyllachora maydis — severe yield loss is possible for susceptible hybrids. It appears as small, raised, black spots scattered across the upper and lower leaf surfaces. Kurtz described it as a shotgun blast pattern.