Helicopters once buzzed across R.D Offutt's massive potato farms here, spraying fungicide about every five days.
It's how the potato industry did business, but not anymore.
Helicopters still spray and pesticides haven't disappeared, but Offutt's using less of them. It now employs automated weather stations and a sophisticated computer program to predict disease risk. The company tried the new system on 13 percent of the crop last year, targeting sensitive areas near homes where pesticide drift might be a problem. It cut pesticide applications by 30 percent.
This year the computer program is monitoring a third of Offutt's 10,000 acres in north central Minnesota.
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