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3 Reasons Your VM Program May Be Underperforming

Oct. 1, 2023
Research from Corteva Agriscience shows that delayed or ineffective treatments can double the cost of vegetation maintenance in future seasons. Here are three reasons why your current program may be underperforming and how to reverse the backslide.

The brush is growing, the stems are multiplying and your ROW areas are starting to look like something Lewis and Clark might have seen. Clearly, your vegetation management program isn’t performing the way it needs to. So, what happens now?

It may be tempting to shrug off an underachieving VM program with a vague promise to “hit it harder next season,” but that approach could put you doubly behind…literally. Research from Corteva shows that delayed or ineffective treatments can double the cost of vegetation maintenance in future seasons, making it all the more important to understand why your current program is underperforming, and what you can do to reverse the backslide.

1. Are You Relying on Mechanical Control?

Exclusively mowing isn’t a sustainable long-term strategy for managing tough brush and weeds for a wide range of reasons. First, mowing creates a significant environmental impact. According to research conducted by Asplundh Tree Expert, mowing requires as much as 24 gallons of fuel for every 3.04 acres covered, resulting in carbon emissions of over 175,000 pounds per 1,000 acres mowed.

High-volume foliar applications, on the other hand, produce roughly one-eighth the emissions as mowing; low-volume basal and foliar treatments produce virtually no emissions at all. In addition, improperly timed mowing can destroy critical habitat for pollinators, ground-nesting birds and other animals, and can potentially impact endangered species.

But the environmental impact of mowing isn’t the only reason to embrace a more holistic IVM program. While mowing does produce an immediate result, it leaves a plant’s root system intact, meaning that plants can resprout and spread during the next growing season. Relying on mowing also means you have to maintain a fleet of equipment, as well as a qualified labor force to operate it.

2. Are You Struggling to Complete Treatments?

If you’ve had to contend with a shrinking labor pool, budgetary shortfalls, weather or wildfires, you know how easy it is to get behind on herbicide treatments. And once again, the temptation to bring out the tractors and rotary cutters may be strong. But while doing so may satisfy the short-term need, mowing is demonstrably inefficient compared with other treatment methods. According to the same research by Asplundh Tree Expert, mechanical mowing can only cover about a half-acre per hour; low-volume basal applications, on the other hand, covered between 0.6 and 0.9 acre per hour, while high-volume foliar applications covered between 0.7 and 3.06 acres per hour.

In addition, a VM program opens the door to dormant-season treatments such as basal bark, basal cut-stump or dormant-stem applications. These treatments are typically made between late winter and early spring (after fall leaf senescence and before roughly 25% leafout) and, if properly timed and executed, can give vegetation managers and crews the chance to “catch up” on late or missing applications — or get ahead of next year’s program.

The advantages of dormant-season applications don’t end there. Because dormant-season applications are made using selective chemistry and application methods, desirable vegetation is allowed to flourish for a faster, more uniform spring greenup. At the same time, targeted vegetation simply doesn’t leaf out in the spring, so you avoid the widespread browning effects and the potential negative feedback from the public. And since dormant-season applications are made during the winter months, labor and budgetary demands are more predictable throughout the year.

3. Are Your Spray Crews Properly Trained?

No matter what control methods you’re using, none of them will have the effect you need if they’re not well-executed. That’s especially true for herbicide applications. Using improper application methods, off-label rates, mistiming the treatment or using the wrong product altogether can all have a negative impact on your VM efforts. That’s why it’s critical for your spray crews to be properly trained on the products, treatment methods and application tools they’re expected to use. And that training needs to be ongoing, not just a one-and-done classroom session. Visit VegetationEducation.Corteva.com to learn more about the practices and products that can help optimize the performance of your VM program. 

In the end, the most effective VM programs incorporate the right control methods, the right application methods and the right timing. To learn more about how your VM strategy can benefit from the use of selective herbicide applications, visit Utility.VegetationMgmt.com or speak with your local vegetation management specialist from Corteva Agriscience.

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