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August 2014

Flexibility means less is more

Sometimes less is more for roadside managers trying to keep weeds and other undesirable vegetation along roadsides under control.

As district roadside managers for the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT), Johnnie Thorne and William Wigley have found that saying to be true, as both employ flexible and multipurpose herbicides to keep not only the weeds along their roadsides in check but also their bottom lines.

Herbicide Versatility Reduces Inventory and Labor
“Herbicides have played a major role in managing our roadsides for years,” Thorne says. “However, more recently, I’ve begun implementing what I call ‘multipurpose’ herbicides into our program, as it condenses the number of products we have to hold in inventory. I also prefer to use products that have residual control, to limit the frequency of applications and reduce our labor hours.”

“We tank-mix Opensight at 3.3 ounces per acre with Garlon 3A specialty herbicide to treat bridges and other structures but also began tank-mixing it with glyphosate for roadside spraying to see how we can use it in our turf program,” Thorne says. “I like the fact that Opensight is versatile enough to do both, while effectively controlling our problem weeds, so I’ve been working it more and more into our program.”

Wigley feels the same way when it comes to multipurpose herbicides. “When I began at MDOT 11 years ago, I found my district warehouse contained 27 different herbicide products, amounting to over $500,000 worth of product sitting in inventory,” Wigley says. “Over the years, we’ve worked hard to streamline those amounts — mostly by adding herbicides that were versatile enough to use for multiple purposes.”

For him, the choice was Milestone® specialty herbicide. He mixes Milestone at 5 to 7 ounces, along with Rodeo® specialty herbicide at 24 ounces and 1 ounce of sulfometuron methyl for the majority of his high-volume foliar applications. The main target is thistles, particularly, sowthistle, which is prevalent in the area.

“Looking at the last two years of work with this mix, we’ve seen excellent results on thistles, and the mix with Milestone has pretty much picked up every other winter annual and broadleaf weed that were present, as well,” Wigley says. “Our highways are beautiful and clean as a whistle when it comes to weeds. In addition, the flexibility and residual control of Milestone allowed us to move our spray applications to the fall season to reduce the chance of spray drift onto row crops, which are everywhere in our district. It also means we have been able to delay our first mowing of the season by almost a month.”

In addition to the high-volume foliar roadside work, Wigley also uses the mix with Milestone in side-trim applications in the summer and early fall — and has begun using it for some select dormant-stem side trim.

“The bottom line is that money is tight — so I need to get the most bang for my buck from my herbicides,” Wigley says. “For us, whatever the Milestone application has been, the results have been great on the weeds, while also being very gentle on the desirable grasses we have, which are bahiagrass and bermudagrass. And now, when I go into our warehouse, there are only seven different herbicides and only around $100,000 worth stored in inventory.”

University Trials Help Evaluate New Herbicides
Thorne and Wigley, as well as others in their positions with MDOT, rely on a partnership with Mississippi State University when it comes to evaluating which herbicides to prescribe. University researchers carry out trials with new herbicides that come on the market and then share that valuable information with MDOT for evaluation, which is how Thorne was introduced to Opensight and Wigley came across Milestone® specialty herbicide.

“The university works with us to perform test plots with new herbicides, and I then look at the test plots to see which may have a place in my program,” Thorne says. “Even after their results come back, I typically take it a step further and do some additional, larger-scale test plots — usually a few miles or around 30 acres. I do these larger test plots on the same highway so that I can compare herbicides and rates directly next to one another, which is what we did with Opensight.”

For Wigley, university trials conducted five years ago resulted in his adoption of Milestone. “I was looking at the results Milestone was having in our university trials, and they really caught my eye,” Wigley says. “The results were enough to convince me to start using it on our district’s roadsides — and now it’s really become the cornerstone of our roadside spray program.”

Currently, Wigley is doing some university test plot work with Milestone at 7 ounces mixed with 8 to 10 ounces of Rodeo on hemp dogbane — which is becoming a real problem in his area. “The results look really good so far,” Wigley says. “We’re confident this mix will help us beat back hemp dogbane before it gets established.”

The partnership with Mississippi State University helps keep MDOT ahead of the curve in finding multipurpose herbicides like Opensight® specialty herbicide and Milestone to recommend — which in turn helps it meet the challenge of keeping the state’s roadsides secure and beautiful. And for Thorne and Wigley, it’s meant that less is more.