Effectively managing incompatible trees throughout utility rights-of-way is a primary objective of vegetation management programs throughout the United States. Countless tree species pose a potential threat to grow or fall into power lines, posing the risk of lapses in electrical transmission service, wildfires and potential fines under regulations enforced by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Luckily, there are several ways for vegetation managers to control problematic trees. However, certain strategies provide more beneficial results than others.
Simply cutting a tree down or mechanically trimming problematic limbs may seem like a suitable solution for roadside and utility vegetation managers. However, these mechanical control methods can cause more issues than they solve. Mechanical cutting can present safety hazards for tree crews working in unstable or hard-to-reach areas. This approach to managing incompatible trees is also time-consuming and expensive. To make matters worse, mechanical cutting actually stimulates regrowth, which leads to continuous maintenance requirements and increased costs in the long-term. Alternatively, selective herbicide applications can be used to impede the growth of tree limbs that can potentially impact utility infrastructure and site accessibility.
When used correctly, certain herbicides can “prune back” treated limbs or branches without controlling the rest of the tree. By only managing select sections of trees that pose a threat to utility infrastructure, vegetation managers can reduce maintenance costs and public scrutiny while achieving optimum vegetation control that keeps land along ROW corridors safe and aesthetically pleasing.
Oklahoma Gas & Electric added chemical side-trimming applications to its Integrated Vegetation Management program this past year, and the utility is already reaping the economic and environmental benefits as a result. Ultimately, this success comes down to practical time and resource management and the use of effective application methods.
While tree cutting or trimming methods require larger crews and time-consuming work along powerlines, chemical side-trim programs require less equipment and fewer people. As an added benefit, chemical side-trim applications can be performed more quickly than mechanical control methods, which allows vegetation managers to save time and money while moving quickly throughout dangerous settings near utility infrastructure.
Unless spraying over the tops of trees or more than half of the canopy is required, in which case mechanical trimming should be considered as an alternative, the following application methods can be used to execute chemical side-trim applications by air, land or truck throughout the year:
To learn more about these application methods, the equipment they require or which herbicide products are recommended for use in your respective region, access this helpful resource guide or contact a Corteva Vegetation Management Specialist in your area.
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