Methods That Make the Cut
Suppliers are producing machines and developing methods to tackle unwanted vegetation.
Weeds, plants and other undergrowth are Mother Nature’s little annoyances to the railroads. Vegetation management crews are constantly out on-track, off-track and now even up in the air, fighting the battle for a clear right-of-way. There have been many improvements in herbicide mixes and machines to help keep ground bare, including a new system called Chlorovision.
“The single largest challenge in our industry today is the continued development of herbicide-resistant weed species,” said Wayne Hug, Vice President Railroad Division at DeAngelo Brothers, Inc.
“One key contributing factor to this problem is the fact that our industry has gone several years without much new product development, so our control options have been limited,” he explained. “Roughly 10 years ago, a lot of brand name product patents began to expire; that created huge expansion opportunities for the generic market. As costs for generic products came down, control of certain species became more difficult because the chemistry at hand had already been heavily used for several years. The end result is many of the products that effectively controlled challenging species just a few years ago now have almost no effect on our most difficult challenges such as kochia, sprangle top and even crab grass. While the old chemistry still effectively controls 80 percent to 90 percent of the weed and grass species we encounter and it is still needed, it effectively eliminates competition for other, more difficult to control species and those species populations are increasing at rapid rates.”
The company’s challenge with chemical-resistant weed species is comparable to the challenges humans are encountering today with “Super Bugs” (infections) and the lack of new, effective antibiotics to control them, notes Hug.