IVM and Biological Control

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Bee in flower, meadow

Here’s an idea. How about you cut more brush, more often, with the same budget, the same equipment, and the same number of workers?

Sound ridiculous? Of course it is. But if you’re ignoring the biological brush control benefits that come with a sound integrated vegetation management (IVM) strategy, that’s exactly what you’re setting yourself and your crews up for – more work, over more time, costing more money. 

You already know how IVM works. A well-planned, well-executed IVM program uses herbicides in combination with mechanical and other measures to control undesirable plant species; by integrating herbicides into the overall VM plan, vegetation managers can reduce the amount of mowing and carbon emissions, and improve native habitat.

But those are only the most obvious and tangible benefits. An IVM program can also help reduce vegetation management costs over the long term – in large part due to the “biological control” achieved from an established IVM program.

Biological control refers to the use of existing natural systems and patterns to provide or enhance control of undesirable vegetation. In his landmark study, “The Cost Efficiency of IVM,” John Goodfellow notes:

“…the competitive pressure exerted by well-established compatible plant communities… suppresses the re-establishment and re-growth of incompatible tall growing trees. This is a form of biological control that is central to the practice of IVM.”

An IVM program takes advantage of this biological control in two ways:

First, when native grasses and groundcovers are allowed to flourish under IVM, they become established and effectively shade out tree and brush seedlings. According to Goodfellow:

“While repeated mowing has been shown to reduce stem density some degree over time, the nonselective basis of mowing essentially re-creates a similar level of severe disturbance with each treatment. This is in contrast to the IVM strategy that relies on the establishment of compatible plant communities that exert biological control through competition, suppressing the re-invasion and growth of incompatible plants. Herbicide application methods become increasingly selective with each subsequent treatment, resulting in further reductions in site disturbance over the longer term.”

Second, once compatible plant communities are established, that habitat then attracts deer, rabbits, birds and other wildlife that consume the seeds, seedlings or shoots of undesirable plants. Taken together, these two biological control mechanisms offer vegetation managers a powerful weapon against woody brush and other incompatible species, and play a significant role in reducing the costs and emissions associated with vegetation management, while at the same time improving overall program effectiveness.

But biological control is just one of the many advantages a well-planned IVM program offers over mowing-only vegetation management. To learn more about the benefits of using selective herbicides and application methods as part of an IVM program, visit VegetationMgmt.com, or contact your local Corteva Agriscience vegetation management specialist. 


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