Monday, December 9, 2013

Think Twice Before You Spray That Ditch

By Don Ryan, Resource Specialist
Don Ryan is a Resource Specialist with the ISDA Division of Soil Conservation in Southwest Indiana, stationed in Daviess County.  Don was raised on a small diverse livestock and crop farm.  He started his conservation career in Daviess County as a district technician and has been with the State for 26 years.

Several years ago, I was asked to look at a ditch with a producer.  This ditch was behind her house and just outside her horse pasture.  When I arrived, it was completely bare.  It had no vegetation, and the erosion was bad.    She had sprayed it earlier because she didn't like the tall grass and weeds growing out her back door.  She stated that it had really gotten out of hand, so she unknowingly traded in weeds and grass for a nasty looking brown and exposed soil ditch by eliminating the vegetation.  

Now, several years later, that ditch is mostly weeds and looks worse now than it did before it was sprayed.  Fortunately, some grass is coming back.

There is a time and a place for everything.  There are times when noxious weeds need to be removed and the most effective way to take care of them is spraying.  If broad leaf weeds are the major concern, maybe a chemical specifically for those weeds could be used.  Another option for weed control in ditches could be a systematic approach of spraying and reseeding, that might take a couple of years, so as to not have complete exposure at once.

An effective way to maintain a ditch is mowing and the good ol' weed eater on those steep banks.  This is not always the most fun way to take care of things, but it is very effective.  Just keep in mind that you don’t want to cut the grass too short.  The best way to protect that ditch from erosion is a good stand of grass with strong roots.

One last thing to keep in mind!  You are using a chemical in an open and flowing water course.  Please follow label directions for best results and safety.

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