Weed control on hard and gravel surfaces has been a bone of contention for many years. The sheer size of the problem in the UK is colossal not only in scale but also in terms of the costs required to keep the weeds in check.
A recent interview with Richard Stow, MD of Weedfree Limited gave an interesting insight into how his company provides a service to many UK clients and customers in regard to controlling weeds on client sites which include railways, industrial and amenity sites.
Richard Stow pictured above
Yorkshire based Weedfree Limited is a weed control, vegetation management and railway support services contractor. It employs 70 fully trained sprayer operatives who have the relevant training certificates and qualifications to store, use and apply registered chemical control products. Staff numbers increase by 25% during the company’s busy Autumn period.
An active member of the Amenity Forum as well as Bayer’s own Customer Advisory Committee, Weedfree Limited is a BASIS Amenity Assured Contractor meeting the highest standards of quality, environmental and occupational health and safety and is always promoting industry best practice.
With over 25 years working experience Richard was keen to talk about the issues facing the industry in terms of controlling annual weeds and stating that a combination of applying a residual herbicide tank mixed with glyphosate is at present one of the most efficient methods of controlling weeds on railway ballast, natural surfaces not intended to bear vegetation and around amenity vegetation.
Operatives at Weedfree use glyphosate with Bayer’s residual herbicide Valdor Flex. They’ve been using it for two years and are impressed with the consistent results so far.
Richard says: “We’ve been using Valdor Flex for two years and we’re really happy with it. It’s cost effective, it lasts and controls the weeds. It’s an excellent product and it’s now our first choice.
“We use Valdor Flex on all of our road rail contracts, which include several hundred miles of track and we’ve had great results. We always include glyphosate alongside it, as well as an adjuvant and, when needed, a water conditioner. We find this combination particularly useful in hard water areas.
“Our trained professionals apply herbicides in line with the label and regulations and this works. We’re happy with the results. Our operators have treated the same areas for many years, so they get to know them well. Where there is a noticeable difference between Spring and Summer applications, they report back to the rest of the team and the feedback on areas treated with Valdor Flex has so far been very positive.”
Successful weed control
Successful weed control generally starts with understanding the problem and getting to know the local working conditions and topography of the site to develop and implement an appropriate plan to eradicate the weeds efficiently and effectively with minimal risk to the environment and the public. That’s why it helps to have long-term employees that fully understand the areas they are working in and can monitor it from season to season, says Richard.
It is also important to ensure compliance with government legislation and regulations on the use of pesticides and all operators should have the necessary training, education and qualifications to apply these chemical products - just like the staff at Weedfree who are all PA2 or PA6 qualified as a minimum.
An understanding of the weeds that need controlling is also vital. Some weeds will be more difficult to eradicate, such as waxy or hairy leaved weeds, and timing of applications and the right choice of products and adjuvants will be critical for a successful treatment of the weeds in question.
It is also a legal requirement to ensure records are kept of the work carried out, recording times and dates of applications, weather conditions, and names of who carried out the work. Information should be kept on the outcome of the work undertaken. It is good practice to take photos before and after herbicides have been applied.
The use of residual herbicides such as Valdor Flex has helped amenity contractors accomplish successful long-term management of weeds on railway ballast, natural surfaces not intended to bear vegetation and around amenity vegetation. Combining a residual herbicide with a non-selective contact herbicide does provide successful, long-term weed control over already established weeds. The non-selective contact herbicide provides the initial knockdown and the residual herbicide then prevents weeds from emerging for four to five months.
There is on certain occasions the need for a second, follow-up application of glyphosate in June/ July to remove any unwanted secondary weed growth and if weed growth persists further, a final application in September may be required.
Applying Valdor Flex as a pre-emergence residual herbicide will help prevent a broad spectrum of weeds emerging in the first place. However, if weeds are already present it should be used as a post-emergence residual herbicide and applied alongside a non-selective contact herbicide such as Roundup ProActive or ProVantage, which will provide the initial knockdown.
Valdor Flex itself provides a number of benefits including a formulation of two separate active ingredients diflufencian and iodosulfuron-methyl-sodium, which can help to minimise the risk of resistance due to the two different modes of action when compared to a programme of just one single residual active ingredient.
In recent years a number of non-chemical cultural controls methods have been introduced that can help control weed growth but these often come at a higher cost as they may be both labour intensive and have high running costs. These methods include, foam and hot water treatments, electricity and flame guns, brushing and hand weeding.
Richard adds: “In most cases we are driven by what our customers want. Alternatives can be expensive and when we are working with council’s this is a big consideration. We’ve managed whole boroughs using hot water but this comes at a cost as we still need to use diesel so there is an environmental impact.”
“More often than not we come back to our tried and tested methods, using chemicals safely, which we know will provide long-term, sustainable, effective protection.”
The decision to undertake alternative methods of weed control will often be decided by the scale and diversity of the weed problem and the sensitivity of the site, however in the main the use of chemical control methods at this present time still remains the most cost effective and quickest method for controlling weeds on industrial, amenity and railway sites.
More information about Valdor Flex can be found here.
A successful weed control programme is usually achieved by the combination of a number of factors:
- Understanding the scale and problem
- Understanding the local conditions and topography of the site
- Choosing the right course of action depending on the resources and budgets and time scales available
- Choosing the most appropriate non chemical / chemical solutions available
- Carrying out the work in a professional manner and complying with relevant government regulations associated with the safe use of herbicides
- Monitoring and recording the success of the activities undertaken