Green Gab: Dow Agro Talks Vegetation

By Kathleen Davis, Senior Editor

Vegetation managers have a new option for garnering job knowledge these days. Dow AgroSciences LLC has started VM Radio, a new series of podcasts that provides information for utilities managing rights-of-way.

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“From our standpoint, we want to provide education,” said Nikki Hall, marketing manager for Dow AgroSciences with an emphasis in vegetation management (VM). “VM Radio benefits our customers by providing timely, tech-savvy details on how these topics will impact them.”

Vegetation management professionals depend on universities and manufacturers to keep them abreast of the latest issues. VM Radio, which talks directly to those experts, is another tool for customers to keep up with the VM Joneses, Hall said.

Stats and Background

VM Radio hit the airwaves at the beginning of 2009 and features interviews with industry professionals and university researchers. It explores trends in the marketplace and identifies resources available to utility vegetation managers. To date, the podcasts have received 524 “listens.” With five podcasts, the average is nearly 105 listeners, or followers, per episode.

VM Radio had a natural evolution, Hall said. First, the company was seeing more and more people tune into the Web for detailed information on issues.

In addition, Dow AgroSciences has a history of verbal communication with issues in the form of CDs and, before that, a rights-of-way magazine recorded on audio tape that vegetation managers could listen to in their work trucks. VM Radio is a natural offshoot of the combination. The Web users can listen online, and those who desire portable information can download the podcasts to any MP3 player.

“We thought that VM Radio was a really quick way to pass on the information our customers desire,” Hall said.

VM Radio tries to cover the latest and most pressing issues. Podcasts look at trends, what’s hot in the industry and educational ideas, Hall said.

It also takes suggestions. One popular episode on invasive species management was the result of a listener writing in. Dow AgroSciences plans to expand that interaction. The company wants to grow comment and subscriber options and to raise the level of dialogue among interviews and listeners. Hall is happy with VM Radio’s acceptance so far, she said.

“We’ve been very pleased, based on the responses we’ve received from listeners,” she said. “They tell us that the podcasts are easy to listen to and provide valuable information.”

Noncrop Vegetation Management Episode

With an emphasis on training and education, VM Radio discusses the latest industry news, issues and solutions related to the vegetation management market. At press time, VM Radio episodes were available for download. Current podcast topics include tips to deal with public sensitivity to herbicides (episode one), the time and cost benefits of taking an integrated approach to vegetation management using mechanical and herbicide treatments (episode two), an overview of the invasive species landscape with educational information (episode three), container management (episode four) and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Reduced Risk Pesticide Initiative (episode five).

VM Radio’s first episode features Dr. Lloyd Hipkins, a Virginia Tech senior research associate and noncrop vegetation management expert (including rights-of-way). A difference exists between maintaining rural rights-of-way, where most people are used to herbicides being used on local crops, and the sometimes tricky maintenance of urban rights-of-way, where the public might not be as assimilated to herbicides, he said.

“In that (urban) situation, people get a little excited, no matter what you do,” Hipkins said. “They don’t understand it.”

He suggests vegetation managers be “as unobtrusive as possible.” That includes staying out of sight when possible, working when people are less likely to use rights-of-way for leisure—fall and winter—and attempting to suppress excessive odor so the public is not so aware of a chemical smell. Whatever can be done to alleviate the problem early, should be done, Hipkins said.

“A phone call or a letter to the paper, and it can all get out of hand pretty quickly,” he said.

Stump Regrowth Management Episode

The second episode features a discussion with Joe Lentz, vice president of Arborchem, a division of Asplundh. Arborchem has established the No Stump Left Behind program to keep employees and program partners aware of stump regrowth of mechanically removed trees.

“This awareness is important to our industry, but it has gone by the wayside,” Lentz said.

The program has existed for about a year and a half. Lentz said that the company is happy with the program, but milestones have been difficult to judge.

“It’s hard to say,” he told interviewer Jim Jessen. “In some areas, the budget has dropped, and it hasn’t done as well as we expected it to. In other areas, it increased three times …. It’s an ongoing effort.”

Arborchem will keep promoting the program so the rights-of-way that bring power to the public can stay open and clean for its transport, he said.

“People want safe power,” Lentz said. “Vegetation management can help with that.”

He listed six things vegetation managers need to be productive in clearing rights-of-way for safe power. They are: proper equipment, appropriate mixes, correct nozzle sizes, proper equipment maintenance, knowledge of species in the area and a keen sense for temperatures.

In addition, Lentz shared three main goals with regular vegetation management: getting a high percentage of control, being productive in the application and doing so with no off-target damage.

“If we meet those three goals, then we meet our objective in supplying reliable power,” he said.

To listen to the full podcasts of the first five episodes, access VM Radio online at

The Web site has a suggestions link for readers mulling over a perfect podcast topic that has yet to be covered. VM Radio aims for about six episodes a year, Hall said.

With five already, that leaves one topic to be explored. Perhaps a Utility Automation & Engineering T&D reader has that last VM Radio idea for 2009.

VM Radio is owned by Dow AgroSciences LLC, which provides technologies for crop protection, pest and vegetation management, seeds, traits and agricultural biotechnology. Dow AgroSciences is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Co. Learn more at

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Work Environment Determines Choice of Rugged Computer

The computer has moved from the office into the field. Today, people who perform normal job functions in demanding environments use rugged mobile computers that guard against water and dust, operate in high and low temperatures, and protect against shock and vibration. However, meeting these standards is not a “yes/no” or “pass/fail” proposition. Computers are designed with different tolerances. Understanding the working environment and how computers handle these conditions is a key part of selecting the correct unit.

Dust and Water

Dust and water are two of a computer’s worst enemies. Non-organic matter can clog connections. Organic matter such as mud can lead to fungal growth or the retention of moisture, leading to corrosion that could take months before intermittent operation occurs. Water, in the smallest amounts, turns to vapor upon operation of electronic equipment and thereby migrates throughout the entire unit. Rugged computers are often ranked by ingress protection ratings which specify the environmental protection provided by an electronic enclosure. The IP rating normally has two numbers, indicating the levels of protection against water and dust. Within the category of rugged computers, the highest levels of dust protection (5 or 6) are desired; a water protection level of 6 is considered to be water resistant.

High and Low Temperatures

Mobile devices are subjected to a much broader range of temperatures than are office computers. Designs that use fans to remove heat run the risk of single point failures, may become clogged, or are difficult to clean and/or decontaminate. A computer designed for use in harsh environments uses mechanical design to transfer heat away from internal components, such as chip sets, to the housing where heat is dissipated into the ambient air. This “heat pipe” approach has proven superior to an internal fan.

Shock and Vibration

Mobile devices are subjected to a broad range of intentional and non-intentional usage environments not present with office equipment. Careful attention to material properties such as malleability (too malleable leads to wear) and fragility (such as glass shatter) are required. All components, boards, brackets, and cables need to have rigid mounting. Spinning media are isolated so the drive head does not crash. For shock, materials that deform and then relax at a slow rate are used. For vibration, materials that absorb the vibration energy and dissipate as heat are used.


The growing market for rugged computers is characterized by a degree of confusion about the meaning of the term rugged. There are some specific ratings, such as ingress protection that may be used to gauge specific performance criteria. And there are categories like “semi-rugged,” rugged” and “fully rugged” that are often used, but are not easily defined. Thus, users must evaluate levels of protection in light of the specific environment in which the computer will be deployed.

By Bill Glusing
Vice President, Advanced Programs
DRS Tactical Systems

Are you sure your vegetation management program is in compliance?



The first stage is creating a well-thought-out plan. On an organizational level, this stage refers to the Transmission Vegetation Management Plan. According to the NERC Standard for Transmission FAC 003-1, the TVMP is approved by the Regional Reliability Organization. At the ground level, this involves planning vegetation management activities on each circuit. This Circuit Plan is just as important as the TVMP. A detailed and concise plan is the first step in making a transmission corridor safe.

Not only is the circuit plan vitally important for planning the reliability of a circuit, this is also where you drive efficiencies into your operations, saving money. Without a clear idea of what needs to be done on thousands of acres of transmission corridor beforehand, you don’t know where you can cost-effectively aerial spray, ground spray, and remove trees. Maybe your money is being wasted hand cutting brush or using an inefficient spraying application. You have no access points defined beforehand so much of your UVM budget dollars might be spent on crews driving around and downtime.

Before we go any further, let’s make something clear: your tree crews may not be doing a bad job or trying to waste your money. In all likelihood, they are doing the best they can, but without a clear and concise plan, they don’t possess the tools they need to succeed at operating efficiently. This is a management framework that drives efficiency by its design.


The second stage is the execution of the plan. In most utilities, the execution of the plan is performed by qualified tree contractors. With a clear and concise plan, the crews know their definition for success and are given the tools to achieve it.


The final stage of making a circuit compliant is the audit on the ground level. At this point in the total quality management process, you have made a clear and concise plan for the circuit and the line clearance contractors have taken the plan and have executed the work. The audit confirms that the plan was executed successfully. For transmission facilities, this should be a 100 percent audit. There is no reason to skip anything when one missed tree can equate to a 6-figure fine.

At this stage of the process it is important to stress the value of independent, third-party auditing.

Imagine paying the company that accomplishes the work to audit or evaluate their own work? The conflict of interest there is pretty obvious; it’s like running a multi-million dollar contract on the honor system. Third-party, independent audits allow you to be sure of the results.

So let’s take another look at the original question: are you sure you’re vegetation management program is compliant? The answer will be yes if you commit to a few important steps. Keeping in mind all applicable state and federal laws, create a plan that will lead to improved execution that will pass the strictest of evaluations while saving money in the long run – Plan, Do, Check. Every stage produces reportable data that lets you know—and prove to others—you are in compliance. Accountability at each step occurs when quality management steps are independent.


Talk to an ACRT expert today, to learn more about how you can be sure you’re system is in compliance.
(800) 622-2562 x297

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