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IVM Protects More Than Reliability

June 4, 2021
Learn how utility companies can embrace Integrated Vegetation Management programs to save money, ensure electrical transmission reliability and benefit the environment.

Trees and tall brush species may seem insignificant, but they can pose real threats to electrical transmission reliability. In addition to growing or falling into overhead transmission lines and causing unpredictable service interruptions, undesirable plant species can create other issues that threaten the safety of native wildlife and surrounding communities.

These issues can be avoided, and vegetation management programs don’t have to break the bank to do so. By adopting Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM) strategies, practitioners are able to improve the results of traditional control methods, like mechanical mowing, to reduce the threat of trees, brush and invasive species that wreak havoc throughout utility right-of-way corridors. IVM practices promote stable low-growing plant communities, which reduce the density of incompatible vegetation and create a natural barrier that prevents invasive trees, brush species and noxious weeds from developing in the future.

Selective herbicide applications are a staple of an IVM-based strategy. Whereas nonselective mowing practices control all plant species and stimulate regrowth in targeted plant species when used exclusively, selective herbicides leave compatible plant species relatively unharmed by only working on processes that occur in targeted plant species. Selective herbicides are used to effectively reduce incompatible stem densities, which lowers long-term maintenance costs as re-treatment requirements become less frequent from one year to the next. This allows vegetation managers to reallocate valuable funding that would otherwise be dedicated to perpetual mowing or trimming.

In addition to providing cost savings and enhancing electrical transmission reliability, IVM programs featuring selective herbicide applications provide a variety of other advantages to utility companies across the country. Here are a few of the most noteworthy benefits:

Biodiverse Habitat Development

The State Game Lands 33 (SGL 33) Research Project has analyzed the environmental impact of vegetation management strategies throughout utility rights-of-way for more than 60 years. From assessing ecosystem health to identifying practices that support the development of biodiverse habitat for wildlife, SGL 33 continues to provide valuable insights to utility vegetation management programs looking to ensure electrical transmission reliability and safeguard the environment throughout right-of-way corridors.

SGL 33 uses decades of data to compare the impact of different control methods and determine how different types of herbicides affect plants and animals. Through this research, SGL 33 has identified IVM practices featuring selective herbicides as one of the best ways to manage vegetation throughout utility right-of-way corridors, and countless species of compatible plants and animals have been shown to benefit from IVM programs featuring selective herbicide treatments. Other industry researchers have also found that IVM programs featuring selective herbicide applications consistently cost less to maintain compared with the exclusive use of mowing treatments.

Corteva Agriscience recently added to the industry’s most complete portfolio of vegetation management herbicides with the introduction of TerraVue® herbicide. TerraVue offers the industry’s most favorable environmental profile, plus the selectivity of TerraVue supports desirable plant development, which promotes the growth of plants that support countless wildlife species, including a variety of endangered pollinators.

As partners of SGL 33, Corteva encourages environmentally minded utility professionals to learn more about its groundbreaking research at  HabitatWithHerbicides.com.

Wildfire Mitigation Enhancements

IVM programs featuring selective herbicide applications also support the establishment of fuel breaks in and around utility rights-of-way. As an IVM-based approach controls trees and other incompatible plant species for good, vegetation managers are able to successfully convert the wire zone and border zone to include low-growing grasses and forbs. These desirable plant species are less flammable and provide multiple benefits to programs working to mitigate the risk of wildfires, including:

  • Impede the development of trees that could grow or fall into transmission lines
  • Reduce the amount of flammable debris that could fuel a wildfire’s spread
  • Provide a safer environment for firefighters working to suppress the flames

According to a recent 5-year study conducted by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention, 1 in every 10 wildfires is caused by electrical power. This makes IVM strategies featuring selective herbicide applications an environmentally friendly solution to preventing their ignition and spread.

Improved Site Accessibility

When interruptions in utility service occur, the results can be devastating for businesses and surrounding communities. From hospitals and manufacturing facilities to grocery and retail stores, losing power means losing business, and the results can cost thousands, if not millions, of dollars, depending on the duration of each service interruption. This makes power restoration an extremely time-sensitive priority for utility companies facing public scrutiny in the wake of a power loss.

Incompatible vegetation that develops freely throughout right-of-way corridors can not only cause these interruptions, but also obstruct accessibility to utility infrastructure. Depending on the density of undesirable plants, it can take multiple days to mow access paths large enough for service providers to reach damaged wires or towers. However, these issues rarely occur when IVM strategies featuring selective herbicides are used to control incompatible vegetation throughout utility right-of-way corridors. The establishment of low-growing plant communities ensures servicemen and women are able to access utility equipment quickly, which expedites power restoration and provides peace of mind to businesses and homeowners alike.

Taking the Next Step

IVM strategies provide an ideal solution for utility vegetation management programs looking to ensure the safe and reliable delivery of utility service. Considering the added benefits of protecting the environment and surrounding communities, today’s practitioners are encouraged to learn more about integrating IVM practices into their vegetation management programs at VegetationMgmt.com.

™ ® Trademarks of Corteva Agriscience and its affiliated companies. Under normal field conditions, TerraVue® is nonvolatile. TerraVue has no grazing or haying restrictions for any class of livestock, including lactating dairy cows, horses (including lactating mares) and meat animals prior to slaughter. Label precautions apply to forage treated with TerraVue and to manure and urine from animals that have consumed treated forage. TerraVue is not registered for sale or use in all states. Contact your state pesticide regulatory agency to determine if a product is registered for sale or use in your state. Consult the label for full details. Always read and follow label directions. © 2021 Corteva.

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