Better Roads Staff
It Doesn’t Have to be a Jungle Out There
By Mike Anderson
Call it a rule of thumb: It is always easier to find funds – no matter how bare the funding cupboard – for a taxpayer-jolting pothole than for neglected roadside vegetation or rock riprap. Ask any maintenance manager.
Too often, it appears, roadside vegetation is not, well, given its fair share of weight in planning and thinking about overall road management strategies and fund dispersal in these tough economic times. And that mindset can turn out to be costly. If budget can be found for products and applications that control, maybe even prevent, deterioration beside the road, there are true long-term benefits, including financially, say industry suppliers.
“I think we don’t fully account the cost of a solution that is our ‘go-to’ solution,” says Paul O’Malley, national market development director, Landmark Earth Solutions. “We take for granted and we turn a blind eye to what I often call the hidden costs. What is it truly costing for a piece of equipment to get out there and do the repair, for example, or to have your workers going back out to that site on a more frequent basis, versus the other needs that you need to be managing? It seems to me that these hidden costs are just sort of an accepted practice.
“My advice for agencies and contractors is to truly do an objective analysis of what the costs are of what you are currently doing versus some of the alternatives that are out there.”
Let’s take, by way of example, what industry leaders are offering in three specific areas of roadside maintenance:
1. Vegetation Management
Asked for his perspective of the market today, DuPont’s Darin Sloan couldn’t resist. “From my perspective, it’s funny that you use that term. We’re right in the middle of a launch of a new herbicide for roadside management – we got our first state registration in February of this year – and the name of the product is Perspective.”
Maintenance is an area that all too often we have become conditioned to not really scrutinize as effectively or as aggressively as we should.
– Paul O’Malley, Landmark Earth Solutions
Based on a new DuPont chemical called aminocyclopyrachlor used in various non-crop applications, Perspective is being promoted across the country as a tool for managing a range of roadside vegetation conditions, from line-of-sight safety issues in the faster-growing East to erosion-causing invasive weeds in the West. “As you move west, the roadsides don’t get the same amount of rainfall and, therefore, the uncontrolled vegetation part, the safety part, is not as big of a concern as the degradation of the natural environment due to invasive weeds,” says Sloan, a land management business portfolio manager. “In the Western part of the U.S., there are actually state and federal laws that require these road crews to manage invasive or noxious weeds on their roadsides.” Perspective has a “spectrum of control” on these hard-to-control invasive weeds, including leafy spurge, knapweed and thistle complex, he says.
Across the country, species that built a resistance to traditional herbicides, including Russian thistle, resistant marestail and resistant kochia, can be managed by crews with the same aminocyclopyrachlor chemical product applied to more normal vegetation management such as perennial broadleaf weeds. “As resistance developed, what would happen is they’d have weed escapes. They’d have to come back and plan another herbicide application to basically go over the same acres they sprayed before,” explains Sloan. “This new product will do it right the first time. They won’t have to come back and get these resistant species, not to mention some of those invasive species that really just didn’t have a good solution. Leafy spurge is sort of the poster child for that – it really has not had a good commercial solution in the past for control.”
Perspective “can also deliver some fiscal benefits, when you start comparing herbicide programs to mowing programs and the ability to eliminate some of the mowing cycles they have in-season,” says Sloan. Particularly in the East, “we can go out in the fall, which is relatively new in this marketplace, and provide residual weed control through the fall and the spring. That’s where they start seeing the benefits of reducing the amount of mowings that they have to do, or at least delaying the mowings until further into the summer.”
Primarily for broadleaf weed control, one application of Perspective per season should suffice, he says, adding that a follow-up product such as Pastora is required for areas with grass issues, such as the Southern and particularly Southeastern states.
“For those areas, we’re going to be actively promoting a two-pass system, if you will,” says Sloan. “You start the season off with Perspective and keep the roadsides clean until the beginning of summer, and then when you’ve got Johnsongrass and Dallisgrass and some of the undesirable grasses coming up, hit it with a Pastora treatment. From an herbicide application standpoint, that will pretty much be all you’ll need.
“You’ll probably have to come in and mow a couple of times in that summertime period,” Sloan continues, “but from a weed-control standpoint, you’ll be sitting pretty good.”
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