Vegetation management isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Professionals today have a seemingly unlimited arsenal of technology, equipment and products at their disposal.
As an active leader in vegetation management products and solutions, Corteva Agriscience connects with industry experts across the country to align on the best combination of those tools for best practices of right-of-way (ROW) management. One of those partnerships is Corteva Vegetation Management Specialist Logan Martin and Wesley Graham, ROW manager and field biologist with Cooperative Energy.
We recently caught up with them to explore their relationship and how Cooperative Energy works to continuously improve the utility’s vegetation management strategy:
Wesley Graham (WG): IVM cannot be successful using one technique. Every tool must be available to a manager to achieve desirable goals.
Logan Martin (LM): Vegetation management programs that rely on mechanical control methods alone may not be the most efficient, cost effective or environmentally friendly when it comes to controlling vegetation throughout ROW corridors. Negative impacts on soil from mowing include tire rutting from heavy equipment, erosion and compaction. Mowing also impacts all vegetation, undesirable and desirable species. Repeated mowing of brush creates multiple stems from the same root system, which grows into dense thickets reducing accessibility and makes future efforts of control more difficult. Improper timing of mowing can negatively impact wildlife and pollinators, such as ground nesting birds, ground dwelling mammals and reptiles, flowering forbs, and can potentially impact endangered species such as the gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) collapse of burrows.
LM: IVM uses multiple methods to control vegetation. For example, mechanical control may be the best option when instant removal of vegetation is needed, such as when brush has encroached the wire zone or when large brush needs to be removed for site reclamation. However, when creating a long-term plan to manage vegetation over a period of years or trying to transition species composition from undesirable to desirable, chemical control may be the better solution.
LM: An IVM approach allows the vegetation manager to use the best method for a specific objective or site. Often, the objective of the ROW vegetation manager is to maintain reliability and accessibility in the most cost-effective way possible. This is done by controlling large vegetation like trees and shrubs, also known as undesirables. When controlling trees and shrubs, you transition the species composition of the ROW from intermediate species to an early successional habitat that consist of herbaceous annuals and perennials like grasses and flower forbs. Research has shown that early successional habitats are also beneficial to wildlife and pollinators. This type of vegetation management program turns rights-of-way into wildlife corridors.
WG: Through the use of IVM techniques, we have successfully converted our rights-of-way to a more herbaceous environment, which is a win for Cooperative Energy as well as landowners and native wildlife species. By removing undesirable dense, woody species, native grasses and flowering forbs are allowed to proliferate. This creates a plant community that supports pollinators and wildlife. Utility crews are able to restore power more rapidly due to the fact that the source of an outage can be identified quicker, which enhances restoration efforts.
LM: We make site visits to identify undesirable or problematic species, evaluate performance of herbicide mixes currently in use, and make product or rate recommendations as needed. We also establish field trials to evaluate new mixes or products and provide physical or digital resources to support their program and offer training materials to continue education on herbicide stewardship.
WG: Cooperative Energy’s relationship with Corteva Agriscience is strong and we value the partnership that has been developed. We lean on them for their expertise in developing and maintaining a flexible IVM program that achieves our goal of enhancing reliability through safe and efficient methods that benefit both our members and the environment.
For more information on using IVM-based strategies to control undesirable plant species, promote low-growing vegetation and enhance environmental sustainability, visit HabitatWithHerbicides.com.
For over 30 years, Vistas® has covered strategies, trends and stories from across the Vegetation Management industry.