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Spring refresher

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May 4, 2020 -  By
Photo courtesy of Corteva Agriscience

Photo courtesy of Corteva Agriscience

Reviewing the fundamentals of proper weed management is a good idea before the start of a new spring season.

Spring has arrived once again and lawn care operators are ready to kick off a brand new season. But before even the most experienced LCOs load their tanks and trucks, David Hillger suggests a refresher of the fundamentals of good weed management.

David Hillger

David Hillger

“Whether it be in a crop situation or in individual lawns, the fundaments of good weed management are the same,” said Hillger, field scientist for Corteva Agriscience Turf & Ornamental. “The goal is to create areas that are desirable for customers that look healthy, are aestatically pleasing, and are void of unwanted weeds.”

The first step is to properly identify the specific weeds that need to be treated, and Hillger says this starts with a thorough site evaluation.

“It’s very easy for LCOs to say, ‘Well, it’s crabgrass season, so that must be the problem,’” he said. “But after a site evaluation, they might find that there is also goosegrass and other things that need controlled. If LCOs don’t take the time to properly identify the weeds, they can miss these problems.”

Hillger warns that combination herbicide products that contain multiple active ingredients can sometimes give LCOs a false sense of security that proper weed identification isn’t necessary. Sedge is a perfect example of a type of weed not controlled by many combination products.

“Without knowing they have sedge, LCOs might miss it completely,” Hillger said. “It can be a slippery slope not knowing what’s there, and it’s very possible that what’s in the premix might not be the best material to catch what is growing.”

Once the weeds are identified, LCOs then need to ensure they select the right product for the job. Hillger says it’s important to read the label and know how to safely and effectively apply the product at the right time and in the right amount. For example, if an LCO is prepared to spray a crabgrass preemergent but the weed has already germinated, the application is not going to be as effective. Product distributor reps are good sources of information about new products and treatments for combatting weeds specific to an LCO’s region.

Photo courtesy of Corteva Agriscience

Photo courtesy of Corteva Agriscience

“Asking questions of their distributor reps and having a good relationship with them is important,” Hillger said. “They may be able to provide LCOs with a better product for the problems they’re facing.”

Properly calibrated equipment is also necessary for a successful application. The final weeks of winter are good times to inspect and calibrate lawn care equipment in preparation for spring. In addition to calibration, LCOs should also make sure nozzles are unclogged and working properly and that there are no leaks.

“LCOs certainly want to take the opportunity to calibrate so they are delivering the right amount of liquid or granular product,” Hillger said. “If they don’t spray enough, they may not kill the weeds and if they spray too much, they are wasting product and money.”

With the right products and equipment ready to go, it’s time to hit the field. But once a technician arrives at a property, several factors need to be considered before they start spreading or spraying. For example, what are the weather conditions? Are the winds favorable or is the material just going to blow away? Are there areas of desirable vegetation to avoid? Are there children or pets nearby? Is the LCO wearing the necessary personal protective equipment?

“The applicator is the final authority on whether the application should or shouldn’t be made,” Hillger said. “They need to check all those boxes before they start to spray.”

The final step of the weed management process – monitoring the results – is one Hillger says is easy for LCOs to skip. But taking the extra time to visit a site between applications is not only beneficial from a customer relationship standpoint, but is also an opportunity for LCOs to learn what works and what doesn’t and get in front of any problems that may have arisen.

“During this step, knowledge is gathered so when the LCO has a similar condition on another property, they will know what works,” Hillger said. “LCOs need that feedback that what they are doing is effective, and they also will come across as an LCO who cares about the quality of their work.

“Good weed management is a process,” he adds. “Each step is just as important as the next and they all need to be performed together.”

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