Ask the Expert: GDOT - Richard Littleton

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GA DOT highway through forsest

Roadside vegetation management best practices have been a discussion topic among industry professionals for years. From mechanized mowing practices to chemical control methods, professionals today have more technology, equipment and products at their disposal than ever before. GDOT is employing many of these tools in an IRVM strategy.

We caught up with Richard Littleton, state agronomist manager with GDOT, to learn how this approach has impacted his program’s results, productivity and plans for the future:

What strategies have been proven to control undesirable weed and grass species effectively?

RL: Utilizing selective herbicides has been key for us. We can target undesirable species while letting our native plants thrive. We can make spot treatments with ATVs in harder-to-reach areas and time our applications according to plant growth phases.

Which strategies and/or goals align with your approach to IRVM?

RL: Proper timing and formulas for herbicide applications help control and reduce vegetative growth as well as reduce the frequency of mowing. Mechanical mowing is the greatest expense of all our routine IRVM strategies, so reducing mowing cycles in turn reduces our carbon footprint and maintenance expenses.

What are some of the most significant issues caused by mechanical mowing?

RL: Frequent mechanical mowing can cause a few issues we like to avoid if we can. Continuous slope rutting can increase potential erosion; mowing contractors can skip or not mow vegetation, or accidentally mow over wildflower and native plant areas. Scheduling conflicts for mowing equipment also can impede our ability to time mowing schedules and ensure vegetation has enough exposure time after herbicide application to be effective.

How do herbicide applications outperform or enhance results achieved through mowing practices?

RL: A good IRVM program has both mechanical and chemical control strategies as important tools for successful results. Herbicides help control, regulate and prevent undesirable vegetative growth, which can help reduce re-treatment needs throughout the growing season. They also can help maintain and eliminate undesired vegetative growth in areas that are hard to reach with machinery.

How does GDOT use herbicide applications to improve/maintain pollinator habitat?

RL: Herbicides are used to remove vegetation from planting sites where competition for nutrients needs to be reduced in favor of high-priced native seed mixes we use. Herbicides are also used to control woody, undesirable and invasive species that show up in these native pollinator planting sites we establish. We also formed a partnership with the Georgia Association of Conservation Districts to plant native plants for pollinator food sources and habitat. These sites include educational signs for the traveling public to visit and read about some of our native plantings for pollinators.

How do you envision your IRVM program evolving in the near or distant future?

RL: Each year we see improvements with our IRVM program that is influenced by districts becoming more observant and involved with our contractor process. Much of our IRVM program is completed by contractors with GDOT district oversight of their performance. We have subject matter experts in agronomy, arboriculture, pesticides, conservation and landscaping, and technical contract writing with contract approval authority on staff to enhance our IRVM program. A good IRVM program is always being evaluated and improved upon to consider changing dynamics within vegetation management.

For more information on using IVM-based strategies to control undesirable plant species, promote low-growing vegetation and enhance environmental sustainability, visit


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