Every year, utility companies and their vegetation management partners work to identify opportunities for programmatic improvements. Some professionals focus on cost-cutting tactics; others look for ways to improve public perception or environmental sustainability throughout their right-of-way (ROW) corridors. Regardless of the objective, one approach can help utility vegetation managers not only enhance electrical transmission reliability, but also achieve their environmental or economic goals: Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM).
As part of an IVM-based strategy, the selective application of selective herbicide products can provide five key benefits to utility vegetation managers and ROW management programs across the country:
1. Improved Mowing Results
By following up mechanized mowing treatments with targeted herbicide applications, IVM programs can selectively control problematic trees and incompatible brush species. This supports the development of low-growing early successional plant communities, which make future mowing treatments easier and more effective.
“Incorporating herbicides as part of an IVM-based approach can help vegetation managers extend the treatment life of mechanical control methods,” said Will Hatler, field scientist, Corteva Agriscience. “This strategy can support industry programs in a cost-effective and environmentally sustainable manner.”
2. Reduced Maintenance Input Costs
As IVM programs help native plant communities flourish, they create a biological barrier against the reestablishment of problematic plants that threaten the integrity of utility infrastructure. Reducing incompatible stem densities throughout utility ROW improves the impact of mowing practices and reduces long-term maintenance needs. Given these potential benefits, vegetation managers should strongly consider the herbicide products they use in the field.
“The chemistries you choose to apply play a critical role in the success of your IVM program,” Hatler said. “Certain herbicide products may offer a lower cost per acre, but their performance often leads to shorter treatment cycles. This leads to recurring maintenance requirements and higher costs over time.”
By using products like TerraVue® herbicide from Corteva Agriscience, which effectively targets more than 140 brush and broadleaf weed species, utility vegetation managers can improve broad-spectrum control and incorporate compatible tank-mix partners to enhance resistance management from one year to the next.
3. Stronger Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation
Remember the beneficial native plant communities IVM programs help develop? They provide biodiverse habitat for various wildlife species, including endangered or at-risk pollinators and breeding birds. When IVM activities prove to yield no net loss or positive impact on biodiversity, they qualify for Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) reporting, which utility companies can share to improve their reputation and public perception.
In addition to reducing mowing requirements over time, IVM programs featuring selective herbicide applications require significantly less fuel than mechanical mowing equipment, which helps utility companies reduce their carbon footprint — another major win in the realm of public opinion.
4. Enhanced ROW Reclamation and Accessibility
When an IVM program is introduced at the onset of ROW establishment, selective herbicide applications can greatly reduce incompatible stem densities in a few short years. Moreover, in the event maintenance is deferred for 10 years following ROW establishment, programs that rely exclusively on mowing practices are likely to incur maintenance costs 16% higher than IVM programs that employ cut-stubble treatments, according to The Cost Efficiency of IVM report by John W. Goodfellow.
By successfully maintaining long-term control of incompatible trees and brush species throughout utility ROW, IVM programs can improve accessibility and work-site safety for maintenance personnel and contract partners.
5. Beneficial Wildfire Mitigation Support
Using IVM strategies to effectively control trees and tall-growing vegetation significantly mitigates risks associated with powerline interference and the potential for wildfire. In turn, sites vacated by trees and incompatible brush species give way to perennial grasses, herbs and small shrubs, which compose a landscape of fire-resistant plant species. This can establish essential fuel breaks throughout utility ROW, providing an area where first responders can combat the flames more safely and effectively.
“Vegetation managers should be working to manage vegetation that contributes to the fuel load potential,” Hatler said. “IVM strategies provide the flexibility needed for practitioners to ensure the most appropriate methodology is used from one site to the next.”
To learn more about IVM and the benefits associated strategies provide to utility vegetation managers, wildlife habitat and surrounding communities, visit Utility.VegetationMgmt.com or access the IVM for Utility ROW e-book developed by Corteva Agriscience.
™ ® 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. © 2023 Corteva.