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May 2017

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Vastlan™ helps keep railway freight moving

Rail moves more freight in the United States than any other mode of transportation, and the current U.S. freight rail network is considered one of the most dynamic in the world.

These railroad companies are responsible for their own maintenance and, compared with other major industries, they invest a very high percentage of revenues toward maintaining their systems.

Railroadinset1 A significant portion of this investment in upkeep goes toward vegetation management. Overgrown weeds and brush are a safety and operational issue for railroads. Among other things, they hinder operator visibility and pose a fire hazard, which is why railroads implement aggressive herbicide treatment programs aimed at eradicating weeds and brush before they become a problem. It’s a big job when, according to the Federal Railroad Administration, this $60 billion industry consists of 140,000 rail miles operated by seven Class I railroads, along with 21 regional railroads and 510 local railroads.

Vastlan™ specialty herbicide came to market in 2016 as a new solution for foundation brush, vine and broadleaf weed control with several benefits that make it well-suited for use on railroads. Many of those responsible for managing railroad vegetation took notice and began using it in their programs, experiencing impressive results.

Less product delivers the same control
DBi Services is a leading provider of maintenance to railroads and had been using Garlon® 3A specialty herbicide for many years in both brush and mainline treatments, with good success.

However, when Terry Waggoner, DBi Region 4 railroad division manager, was introduced to Vastlan, he saw some clear advantages to switching treatments.

Railroadinset3 “With the high-load formulation of Vastlan, we are able to use around 25 percent less material, which is a big deal for us because we work with very high volumes,” says Waggoner, who is responsible for the management of 15,000 miles of rail across 10 states, stretching from Texas up through the Midwest. “And it’s performed incredibly, giving us great results. It’s proven to be excellent in controlling the woody vines, brush and broadleaves that interfere with the track area.”

Waggoner uses Vastlan in mainline treatments to clean up any encroaching woody vines and brush. For straight brush work, he prefers a mix of Vastlan with Tordon® K specialty herbicide. With this mix, he is targeting a lot of hardwood species such as oaks, cedar and mesquite, depending on where the application is taking place.

He also really appreciates the fact that Vastlan™ specialty herbicide is not a Restricted Use Pesticide, meaning there are fewer hurdles to jump through when applying it. Beyond that, Waggoner likes introducing new herbicides into his prescribed mixes in that it helps address a much larger issue.

“Weed resistance is an interesting challenge for us and, really, everyone in this industry,” Waggoner says. “Anytime we can bring a new herbicide into the mix, instead of just increasing our usage rates, it’s a good thing for dealing with resistance management issues.”

Great control, without the strong odor
Asplundh is another leading vegetation management contractor to railroads, and Mark Goodall is a general foreperson with the Asplundh Railroad Division. In his day-to-day duties, he interacts with railroad personnel to ensure everything is running smoothly. He’s also responsible for recommending herbicides and scheduling their application.

For years, Goodall had been successfully using Garlon 3A in brush and mainline mixes with a lot of success. But there was one feature of Garlon 3A he could do without: the smell.

Railroadinset2 “We really liked the control we got with Garlon 3A, but it has a very strong odor,” Goodall says. “And when you’re dealing with large quantities — in our case — hauling several-thousand gallon tanks contained inside boxcars, it tends to amplify things and make it hard to take. Vastlan gives us the same great control, without that strong odor, which is a big deal for us or anyone mixing at such high volumes.”

Goodall prescribes a mix of Vastlan, along with glyphosate, sulfometuron and indaziflam, for mainline treatments. For brush, he uses Vastlan mixed with glyphosate. In both mixes, Goodall uses 1.5 pints of Vastlan™ specialty herbicide.

“We love the results we get with both mixes — Vastlan really does the job,” Goodall says. “Plus, we had been using 2 pints of Garlon 3A in these mixes, but now we’re getting the same great results with only 1.5 pints of Vastlan.”

Keeping vegetation in check
Encroaching weeds and brush along rail lines is a problem that’s not going away anytime soon. Both DBi Services and Asplundh have their sights set on keeping troublesome vegetation in check on our nation’s railroads, so they can continue to safely deliver important freight from coast to coast.