Dormant-stem treatments: catching up & getting ahead

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Picture of a dormant stem

When unexpected factors impede your ability to complete planned treatment cycles, incompatible brush species can flourish, increasing maintenance costs and labor requirements for the next foliar season. By extending the treatment window, dormant-stem applications can effectively curb these potential setbacks.

At one point or another, most vegetation management professionals will encounter roadblocks that unexpectedly inhibit their ability to effectively treat managed lands during a foliar season. From weather complications to labor insufficiencies, a variety of factors can impede results for any planned treatment cycle and jeopardize the progress of incompatible brush control programs. When acres of utility rights-of-way or miles of roadside are left untreated, incompatible brush species are given the opportunity to develop, which only leads to more work and higher maintenance costs as time goes on.

Brush can grow between 20% and 40% from one year to the next, so utility and roadside managers must employ alternative methods of control to ensure the costly development of target plant species does not take place on untreated land. For professionals looking to optimize incompatible brush control beyond the growing season, dormant-stem treatments provide a viable and economical solution.

Extending the effective treatment window

When it comes to treating conifers like hemlock, cedar and pine, or hardwoods like maple and oak, dormant-stem treatments have been proven to increase incompatible brush control by 85% throughout roadsides and utility right-of-way corridors. Growth of untreated brush species only leads to more work and higher product inventory needs for the next foliar season, but dormant-stem treatments extend the treatment window to reduce future labor requirements and maintenance costs.

Limiting brown-out

The brown-out effect is often a subject of concern among the general public. While herbicide treatments are effective in targeting incompatible brush species, the visual results, which may include brown-out, can alarm members of surrounding communities. That’s what makes dormant-stem treatments all the more desirable for today’s practitioners. This strategy is used to target a variety of species after fall leaf senescence, but most targeted plants — aside from evergreen species — won’t leaf out in the spring. And while reducing the brown-out effect can help to reduce public visibility and subsequent scrutiny, the use of selective herbicides can help to ensure only targeted species are controlled, thereby supplementing spring greenup for grass and other desirable plants.

Application methods and timing

Once targeted brush species have completely lost their leaves, a variety of application methods can be used for effective brush control from late fall to early spring. Whereas low-volume pump sprayers and hydraulic units are best suited for individual stem treatments throughout utility sites, high-volume applications are recommended for areas in which increased stem densities are encountered. Thorough coverage is necessary for best results, and the use of basal oils is recommended to improve herbicide penetration into the trunk, branches and stems of each tree. For both high- and low-volume applications, start spraying at the crown of each stem and work all the way down to ensure effective treatment of the entire stem and all terminal buds.

For roadside applications, broadcast treatments can be made by air or ground-rig booms. For ground-based applications, keep booms high enough to provide thorough coverage, but low enough to mitigate the chance of drift. To ensure precise application, sound stewardship and economical herbicide use, ensure all equipment is properly calibrated.

It’s important to note that all three of these application methods are recommended for brush no taller than 10 feet with stem diameters of 3 inches or less. For enhanced levels of efficacy, Garlon® 4 Ultra herbicide is recommended as it features a patented nonpetroleum-based, plant-derived seed oil solvent that helps reduce environmental impact. Recognized as the industry standard for dormant-stem treatments, Garlon 4 Ultra delivers excellent broad-spectrum control of woody plants even after other products call it quits for the season. Like with most herbicides, rates will vary by target vegetation and brush density, so always read and follow product label directions. Once bud bearing occurs in the spring, applicators can employ methods of control normally used during each foliar season.

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