The vegetation management job is never done. From planning the year’s management program to responding to storm damage, utility managers and applicators are busy enough ensuring uninterrupted power without having to think about brush that reappears.
With ever-tightening budgets, it can be tempting to hope for effective control through mechanical means, but that’s wishful thinking for many sites. If you’re not including strategic herbicide applications in your control program, you face the risk of tackling the same brush problems again the next year or even later in the same season.
An integrated vegetation management (IVM) program with appropriate herbicide applications can help you reduce operational costs, since cutting and mowing alone encourage the biological response of regrowth. The only way to ensure utility crews won’t face the same brush and weeds again is to take plants out at the roots.
Archie Dickens, system right of way coordinator and ISA utility arborist for Coast Electric Power Association (CEPA) manages more than 13,000 acres of rights of way near the southern Mississippi coast in Harrison, Hancock and Pearl River counties. Prior to Hurricane Katrina, CEPA had not used herbicides in its management programs since the early 1990s.
Unfortunately, skipping herbicides allowed for vigorous growth. The 2007 hurricane disaster caused vegetation-related issues to become the single leading cause of reported power outages in that region. Taking control of the situation, Dickens and his team began using herbicides in the organization’s IVM program with low rates of Krenite S brush control agent. After four years of including various herbicides in its program, the electric cooperative reported 63 percent fewer outages from vegetation-related issues, including encroachment on distribution lines.
In addition to increased productivity, Dickens helped CEPA reduce overall expenses and public complaints. “At a time when fuel prices continue to escalate along with the rising rates of equipment and labor, we have reduced our cost per mile for rights of way maintenance by almost 10 percent, mostly due to tree removal and selective herbicide applications,” says Dickens. “If you can tackle a weed’s root system, you will have the advantage. In 2007, CEPA received approximately one complaint for every 47 miles sprayed with herbicides. But as we became more aggressive in our spraying technique, rights of way began clearing up and complaints fell to only one for every 174 miles sprayed in 2011.”
A successful IVM program is essential for providing reliable service, and newer herbicides have low use rates that boost productivity.
An herbicide that features both a low use rate and a dry-blended formulation, such as DuPont Viewpoint herbicide, can significantly reduce inventory, hauling, tank mixing and waste disposal. Viewpoint also controls a broad range of difficult brush species. And since it is not a federally restricted-use herbicide, utility crews have more flexibility about where and when they apply Viewpoint.
Incorporating herbicides into an IVM program can save crews time and reduce or eliminate the costs and pressures of repeated treatments to control regrowth. The result is reliable site maintenance and safe rights of way through effective brush control, while reducing costs and public concerns.
Author: Craig Alford is the vegetation management and specialty herbicides product development manager for the Land Management business unit of DuPont Crop Protection. A native of Australia, Alford holds an M.S. and Ph.D. in agronomy and weed science from the University of Wyoming. Craig has been with DuPont for more than eight years in various field development and marketing roles focused on range and pasture and vegetation management.