Right-of-Way Pest Management: Commercial Pesticide Applicators - Category 6 (E2043)

October 27, 2015 - Author: Joy Landis

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This manual is intended to prepare commercial pesticide applicators in right-ofway control (category 6) for certification under the Michigan Pesticide Control Act of 1976 as amended. The “Commercial and Private Applicator Core Manual: Initial Certification” (formerly E-2195), which explains safety considerations, pesticide laws, and integrated pest management principles, should also be studied to prepare for both certification and recertification.

Some suggestions for studying the manual are:

1. Find a place and time for study where you will not be disturbed.

2. Read the entire manual through once to understand the scope and form of presentation of the material.

3. Study one section of the manual at a time. You may want to underline important points in the manual or take written notes as you study the section.

4. Write answers to the review questions at the end of each section. These questions help you learn and evaluate your knowledge of the subject. They are an important part of your study.

5. Reread the entire manual once again when you have finished studying all of the sections. Review with care any sections that you feel you do not fully understand.

After completing your study of this manual and the “core” manual (formerly E-2195), take the core exam and category 6 exam administered by the Michigan Department of Agriculture to become a certified commercial pesticide applicator for right-of-way control.


Rights-of-way are the areas involved in common transport. They include:

• federal, state, county, and township highways and roads

• utilities including transformer stations and substations

• pipelines including pumping stations

• public surface drainage ways

• railroads

• public airports

• bicycle, bridle, snowmobile and other recreational paths

Plant growth and insects and diseases attracted to the plants along the right-of-way are managed to make sure the right-of-way is safe, usable, attractive, economical to maintain, and not harmful to the environment of the surrounding area.

This chapter will explain the steps to planning pest management programs for rights-of-way.

Integrated Pest Management

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is the use of all available tactics or strategies to manage pests so that acceptable control can be achieved. The control methods must be economically feasible with the least disruption to the environment. An IPM program considers the complex biological system in which we must manage pests, and seeks to use pesticides and other management tools more effectively.

In right-of-way pest management herbaceous and woody plant species are the major pests. Occasionally, insects, disease, and vertebrate pests require control measures. Unlike other IPM programs, rightof-way management cannot easily define a croppest relationship such as, corn and the corn root worm or cotton and the boll weevil. It is easier to understand in these situations that a large population of pests can damage the crop plant and result in an economic loss to the farmer. Weeds and woody plants are managed on rights-of-way for safety, access to facilities, decrease maintenance costs, reliability of service, and for other benefits such as aesthetics, wildlife, and environmental protection. The “crop” of rights-of-way is the services the right-of-way provides. To obtain the desired results, right-of-way managers must consider the impacts weed control will have on these various concerns. A good right-of-way management program utilizes the IPM principles to consider all available alternatives when designing a pest management strategy. This way, the services provided by the right-of-way can be maximized with the least harm to the right-of-way environment.

The major components of right-of-way IPM are:

• pest identification

• monitoring

• determination of site specific requirements

• development and implementation of control strategies

• evaluating control strategies for effectiveness

These components relate closely to the steps for developing an IPM program as described in the “Commercial and Private Applicator Core Manual.” We have modified those steps here to more closely reflect the needs of rights-of-way.

The first component is pest identification. It is important to recognize the pest species so that appropriate measures can be considered and so that the rightof-way manager is not surprised by an unchecked pest problem in the future. Identifying pests involves more than recognizing the pest species’ name; it is the gathering of necessary information to develop an effective and cost-efficient control strategy. Pest life cycles, physiology, reproductive potential, and past control results are examples of the kinds of information included in pest identification.

Applicators can enhance control effectiveness by monitoring pest populations to determine their size and resulting damage. By frequently checking control areas and knowing the common pests, you may detect pest infestations before they become a significant problem. Also, monitor the pest's life cycle and use control measures when the pest is at its most vulnerable developmental stage.

Defining site specific requirements is especially important since rights-of-way tend to cross many different areas that may require special considerations.

Obviously treating brush along a rural powerline or drainage ditch is much different than treating brush through a suburban neighborhood. Some examples of different sites are:

• urban, suburban, or rural areas,

• dry upland or lowland and wetland areas,

• popular tourist, scenic areas or recreational areas,

• wildlife habitat such as critical nesting habitat or winter feeding grounds.

Although a formal prescription does not need to be developed for each parcel of land, you should consider the special nature of each area as you develop pest management strategies.

Once the pest species are identified and specific site requirements are defined, you can begin to develop control strategies. Select the appropriate strategies that will provide effective, practical, economical and environmentally-sound control. The last of these criteria is no less important than the first three. Proper selection requires that you be thoroughly familiar with all available control methods and that you fully evaluate the benefits and risks of each of the following: biological controls, cultural controls, mechanical controls, and chemical controls.

Lastly, results of your controls should be recorded and evaluated so that adjustments can be made when necessary. Ineffective, costly or environmentally adverse treatments must be eliminated or changed. Records should include:

• control measures and the starting date for each

• rate for any pesticides that were applied

• identification of equipment and crew

• environmental conditions

• evaluation of effectiveness

• problems encountered or complaints reported

• any damage claims

Techniques Used in Right-of-Way Pest Management

There are four categories of control methods that should be considered for your management strategy. These groups are:

• biological control

• cultural control

• mechanical control

• chemical control

Biological controls focus on enhancing the effects of natural enemies of pests. There are perhaps thousands of naturally-occurring species of insects, mites, nematodes and disease agents which are predators and parasites of right-of-way pests. Be sure to select control measures that will preserve these natural enemies. Allelopathy (a type of biological control) is a phenomenon that may offer good weed control in the future. Allelopathy is the production by plants of chemical compounds that inhibit the growth of other nearby plants. Some weeds actively eliminate competition by producing toxins that enter the soils and prevent the normal growth of other plants. Examples include quackgrass rhizomes and common sunflower. Highly competitive vegetation is also being evaluated as a means to lower the density of undesirable vegetation.

Cultural control methods create optimal growing conditions for the plants you want to preserve or unfavorable conditions for the pests. These control strategies include standard management practices such as fertilizing and planting a variety of desirable plants. Cultural controls are most practical in rights-of-way that include plantings. Several examples are given here:

• Time of Planting. Turfgrass and crops planted in the spring compete well against winter annual weeds. Sometimes the planting date can be delayed until after weeds have sprouted and have been removed by cultivation or by herbicides.

• Nurse Crops. Annuals are sometimes planted with a perennial crop to provide competition with weeds and allow the perennial to become established. The nurse crop is then harvested or removed. For example, oats are sometimes used as a nurse crop to help establish alfalfa or clover. Annual ryegrass is sometimes used in mixtures to serve as a nurse crop for perennial rye, fescue, or bluegrass.

• Controlled Burning. Fire may control limited infestations of annual or biennial weeds. It destroys only the above-ground plant parts and is usually not effective against many herbaceous perennials. Burning creates atmospheric pollution and should be replaced by mechanical control when possible.

• Mulching. Mulching prevents light from reaching weed seeds, thus preventing weed growth between rows, and around trees and shrubs.

• Shading. Aquatic weeds are sometimes controlled by shading them with floats of black plastic, adding dye to water, or similar methods of shading out sunlight.

• Sanitation. It is important to use seeds with as little weed-seed contaminant as possible. If you plant seeds in the right-of-way be sure to use clean seed.

Mechanical control measures may be mechanical or manual. Heavy equipment such as hydraulicoperated brush “mowers” capable of cutting six- to eight-inch trees are often used. Sometimes “tree shears” are used, or even tractor-mounted, ptodriven brush-hogs. Manual treatments are done using hand tools or hand-held power tools such as a chain saw. Mowing grass is a mechanical control. It reduces competition between weeds and desirable plants, and prevents flowering and seeding of annual or biennial weeds. To be most effective, the mowing height must be adequate to ensure control of weed plants and encourage desired vegetation.

Chemical control (pesticides) offers flexibility because of the various selective herbicides and the many options in application equipment and techniques. There are draw backs such as “brown out”, limited season of application, and concerns and perceptions from the public which must be considered. Pesticide applications can be timed so that there is less visual disruption or so that undesirable vegetation does not spread or sprout back to pretreatment levels.

If pesticides are necessary, the information collected about site specific requirements and identification of the pest species will help determine:

• which pesticide to use

• the application technique

• season of year for application

• type of equipment needed

• mixing rate and additives needed.

Keep in mind as you plan control strategies that in recent years attitudes have changed as to what is undesirable vegetation. In the past, all woody vegetation was considered undesirable; now a more selective approach is taken in that only certain species are undesirable and the others are usually left on the right-of-way for other benefits.

Special Environmental Concerns

Early surveys of Michigan determined that the state was one-third wetlands. By 1955, the wetlands occupied less than one-tenth of the land. Wetlands can include swamps, marshes, bogs, and hardwood forest bottomlands: all areas that you may encounter in the right-of-way work. Wetlands are valuable resources ecologically, recreationally, and aesthetically. They provide wildlife habitat, minimize bank and shoreline erosion along rivers and lakes, improve downstream water quality, provide recreational activities, and act as a water storage area during flooding (because water is released slowly from wetlands, flood damages are reduced). Be sure that your pesticide application practices do not harm wetlands and other surface water. Take measures to keep the chemicals out of the water. Use an antibackflow device if you must siphon water directly from a pond or stream to fill your sprayer.


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