Planning for Success with Herbicide Use

There are two kinds of spraying jobs requiring herbicide that most landowners will encounter over time. The first kind is the smaller scale, do-it-yourself situation that may arise for spot treatments of food plots, invasive weeds or selective tree removal. The second kind is the larger scale situation that requires you to hire a contractor when site preparation or release treatments are needed. No matter what the scale and scope of the project, there are things that a landowner should, and in some cases, must do to be properly prepared and covered in the case of liability.

Do it yourself

Many times, a landowner will find themselves staring at a store shelf full of chemicals trying to decide what they need to take care of a small-scale vegetation control problem. Rows of shiny bottles and jugs with fancy logos, catchy names and promises of what they might actually do when applied. Here are some tips to help you succeed:

  1. If you are planning to use chemicals on your property to control vegetation on a fairly regular basis, go ahead and take a private pesticide applicator course and obtain a license. In Louisiana, these courses are held around the state in a collaborative effort between the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry and the LSU AgCenter. There is an upfront cost to take the class and get the license, but the knowledge you receive will help you save so much more in chemical costs and possible liability issues. If you don’t think that you will need this level of training, then follow the next three tips below.
  2. Call your area extension agents, share the problem with them, and they will help you find the right solution to control the vegetation issue.
  3. Read ALL of the label materials. This is important. The label on the container and all of the written materials that come with the chemical are not only important for safety but also liability issues. The label is the law. It will tell you where you can use the chemical, what precautions you need to take for your safety and the safety of others, if the chemical will work for the plant or plants you are attempting to control and much more important information. Read the label before purchasing to make sure it is the right product and that you have the right equipment to safely apply it.
  4. Proper storage and disposal of chemicals is very important. You will be unlikely to use all of the chemical in the container on very small projects and may not even finish using all the chemical mix in your applicator. Follow the label instructions for storage and disposal. Leaving chemicals in a sprayer can ruin the sprayer over time. Putting the concentrated chemical in storage where temperature extremes are not controlled will cause problems.

By following the label and asking for advice, you should be able to have a successful do-it-yourself solution to your problem.

Hire a contractor

There are going to be times when the project may be too large or too complex for a do-it-yourself approach. This is the time to look for a contractor. The following important points were provided by contract applicators based on their interactions with landowners over the years. Some of these points relate to any herbicide operation while others are forest landowner based:

  1. Treated acres on a map matter, total ownership does not. This is because you are not treating the entire acre in many cases but rather a percentage. You will get a report after the application that will show where the work was done and a detailed explanation to go with it.
  2. Your contractor is not responsible for helping you go through the details to get cost share program support for your property. If you have a cost share agreement then you need to be the one who makes sure that everything is approved before starting, such as notifying the government agency that you have a contractor for the application and receiving approval to proceed. Failure to do so may result in the landowner being responsible for the entire bill.
  3. If you hire a contractor, they should be communicating with you using phone calls, text messages or email prior to the application. If they are not, then you need to find out why and what is going on. Good communication expedites contracting and invoicing for all parties.
  4. Watch for invasive species on your properties. The earlier they are detected, the easier they are to control.
  5. If you lack forestry knowledge and experience, hire a forester or consultant to help you with your planning and contract administration.
  6. The most important treatment for establishing a pine plantation is first year grass and weed control.
  7. Thinning plans should include considerations for ground applications of herbicide and fertilizer and allow enough room for equipment operation and application efficiency.
  8. Maintain access to your property. Keep roads and trails in good condition through water bars, seeding sloped areas, replacing culverts and repairing damage as it occurs.
  9. Do you lock your gate? If you do, then make sure the contractor can get in to do the work. This will help avoid delays and cut locks. The timing of herbicide is very important to reforestation success. Delays due to access issues can result in stand level impacts throughout the entire rotation.
  10. Communicate with everyone who may be impacted. Tell hunting clubs what is going to happen, delay food plot planting and make sure stands don’t block access for ground equipment. Maintain a good working relationship with any oil or gas operations on the property and notify them so that well pads can be protected as needed or contractors can gain access to well pad areas for chemical loading.

These tips are some of the main points of consideration for both do-it-yourself and hire-a-contractor situations. Seeking advice from local experts such as an extension agent or hiring a consulting forester can help a landowner make appropriate decisions for an effective herbicide application no matter how large or small the project.

A man walks through a wooded area wearing protective gear and spraying a chemical onto the ground.

Small scale herbicide application with a backpack sprayer. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Shot of a large machine spraying into a wooded forest area.

Contractor facilitated ground application of herbicide. Photo courtesy of Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

6/2/2023 4:41:39 PM
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