Stop the Brush Control Treadmill

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Low volume basal back pack spraying

A holistic pasture management approach, along with a commitment to using the right control methods and products, can help break the cycle of brush infestations.

Another year, another season of playing whack-a-plant with the various brushy pests that seem to pop up and take control of pastures across the United States.

But does it have to be that way? Absolutely not. By treating brush control as you would any other aspect of pasture management, by arming yourself with information, and by avoiding “what we’ve always done” just because it’s what you know, you can put yourself well down the road toward cleaner, greener pastures.

But there are a few critical points to understand. First, effective brush control in pastures is a long game. It’s been said many times that brush problems don’t appear overnight and they won’t go away overnight.

Second, prevention is ultimately the best brush control strategy; reacting to brush infestations after they’ve taken root will be more expensive and time-consuming to address and will be less effective than acting at the first possible opportunity. Finally, while mowing-only or shredding-only approaches offer the immediate satisfaction of seeing a clean pasture, you’ll be fighting every plant you cut down for as long as you stick to those programs; a sound brush control program will almost always involve an integrated mix of mechanical, cultural and chemical methods.

Herbicides: What to Know.

Herbicide treatments for brush typically fall into one of three categories: low-volume basal treatments, basal cut-stump treatments, or foliar (leaf-spray) applications. Each method has its own best practices and preferred use seasons.

Low-volume basal treatments. A year-round pasture improvement tool–as long as snow or standing water don’t prevent spraying to the groundline–low-volume basal (basal bark) treatments involve spraying a mix of herbicide and oil-based carrier to the lower 18 inches of the plant’s trunk, including the root collar. Apply enough solution to thoroughly wet the entire circumference of the trunk, but not to the point of runoff. A mix of 25% Remedy®, Remedy® Ultra or PastureGard® HL herbicide and 75% oil-based carrier (see table 1) can provide excellent control of common pasture brush species, including elms, locust, mulberry, sweetgum and more. Note these treatments work best on plants with smooth bark in the treatment zone that are less than 6 inches in diameter. For larger plants or those with a rougher bark, a basal cut-stump treatment is preferred.

Basal cut-stump treatment. Left untreated, cut stumps send up new sprouts, resulting in a bigger brush headache. Basal cut-stump treatments kill the stump for good. As the name suggests, basal cut-stump treatments involve applying a herbicide mix to the flat surface of a freshly cut stump. Best for larger plants (over 6 inches in diameter) or those with a rougher bark texture, basal cut-stump applications should be made to the outer surface of the stump and the outer edge of the cut surface.

As with basal bark treatments, a mix of 25% Remedy, Remedy Ultra or PastureGard® HL herbicide and 75% oil-based carrier can provide excellent control of many common pasture brush species. As basal and basal cut-stump applications are somewhat more labor-intensive than foliar sprays, they’re typically made in the cooler spring and fall months, but they can be made year-round as long as snow or standing water don’t prevent spraying to the groundline.

Foliar treatment. Foliar treatments are best made in summer, when plants are fully leafed out and actively growing; but application should be avoided when plants are stressed due to heat or drought. Products may be tank-mixed for enhanced brush control or for additional control of broadleaf weeds, such as when cleaning up fence lines; Remedy or Remedy Ultra, for example, may be mixed with DuraCor® herbicide for control of a broad range of brush and weeds.

See table 2 for mixing ratios for various sprayer sizes. This herbicide combination provides broad-spectrum control of many woody plants, including hedge (Osage orange, bois d’arc), multiflora rose, cottonwood, locust, sumac, Virginia creeper, hackberry and hawthorn, won’t damage desirable grasses and is effective against most broadleaf weeds — perfect for preserving valuable fence lines and general pasture cleanup where weeds and brush are present.

NIS = nonionic surfactant; MSO = methylated seed oil. Spot treatments may be applied at an equivalent broadcast rate of up to 40 fluid ounces of DuraCor® herbicide per acre per annual growing season. However, not more than 50% of an acre may be treated at that rate.

Reclaim Lost Land

Finally, when reclaiming tracts overrun by large trees, it’s important to work closely with your aerial applicator or local Corteva Agriscience Range & Pasture Specialist.

These experts can help identify and record species present and develop a prescription program tailored to your needs. Once restored, your land — and your bottom line — will benefit from an effective pasture maintenance program.

Keys to Success

Regardless of your targeted species, application type or product, set yourself up for success by following a few simple guidelines. First, make sure you’ve accurately identified the species you’re targeting. Several smartphone apps are available to help with woody plant identification, or you can “go analog” and consult your local or county weed specialist.

Understand what growth stage the species you’re targeting are in and act accordingly. With brush, during early spring greenup, nutrients are traveling up through the plant and pushing out new growth, so a foliar application that’s too early will prevent translocation throughout the plant, leaving the root system alive and intact. Patience is critical for foliar brush applications. By late spring, trees and other woody species might appear to be fully leafed out. Most likely, they still are pushing out new growth. Hold off on spraying until that new growth ceases.

With foliar applications, thorough coverage is critical for complete control. Be sure to treat all leaves on all sides of the target plant. For trees that are too tall, cut down the tree and treat the stump to prevent resprouting. Larger trees at higher densities will be best controlled with aerial applications.

Under normal field conditions, DuraCor® is nonvolatile. DuraCor has no grazing or haying restrictions for any class of livestock, including lactating dairy cows, horses (including lactating mares) and meat animals prior to slaughter. Label precautions apply to forage treated with DuraCor and to manure and urine from animals that have consumed treated forage. DuraCor is not registered for sale or use in all states. Contact your state pesticide regulatory agency to determine if a product is registered for sale or use in your state. State restrictions on the sale and use of Remedy® and Remedy Ultra apply. Consult the label before purchase or use for full details. Always read and follow label directions.


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