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In too deep

Features - Lawn Care, Industry News

Because of the highly specialized nature of treating aquatic weeds, you may need help if you decide to tackle an issue in the water.

Lindsey Getz | June 30, 2014

While your weed control program is probably down to a science by now, if you’ve worked anywhere that has a body of water, you know aquatic weeds are a completely different impediment. Unless it’s a simple job, the removal of aquatic weeds most likely means a call to the aquatic experts.

The biggest issue with tackling aquatic weeds on your own is licensure and permitting. When it comes to working with water, regulations are strict. Some states even require permits to treat a private pond. Will Stevenson, below, of Lycott Environmental in Spencer, Mass., says each job his company handles may require as many as three separate permits before work can be started.

“We run a couple different shops, house well over a million dollars of specialized equipment, and have the knowledge of individual plants,” Stevenson says. “People that try to jump into aquatic weed control are probably doing it illegally, and they’re treating the wrong plant with the wrong product, which can have negative repercussions. Most of the companies I know that offer this service have been doing it a long time like us. It’s simply too specialized to be any other way.”

Along with that long-term experience comes knowledge – and knowledge of the different kinds of weeds is definitely critical for success in this field. Jim Donahoe, owner of Indiana-based Aquatic Weed Control, says each weed can require a different time of year or a different herbicide. He says unless you’re certain you know what you’re doing, you could be doing more harm than good. “Not to mention that aquatic herbicides are much more expensive than lawn care herbicides,” he adds.

But even with the extensive knowledge and history, Stevenson says new issues constantly arise in this ever-evolving field. “By this time of year (April), we as a company have already seen over a thousand lakes and ponds and we have a pretty good history within our biology staff of what’s going on in those lakes and ponds,” Stevenson says. “But we still run into challenges. There are just so many things you can’t account for in this field and you have to be able to adapt. It’s not the type of thing where you can use the same solution in another place just because it worked once. There are a lot of factors and science coming into play in our decision making.”
 

Working in water.

The treatment of aquatic weeds is also quite different from their land-based counterparts. Steve Weinsier, president of Allstate Resource Management in Davie, Fla., says the water column limits direct contact with plants and the movement of the water can prevent adequate contact time for control.

Stevenson adds that some plants, like algae, can move within the body of the water, which adds another layer of difficulty. “The treatment for aquatic plants is very different than land weeds because you have to account for flow and dilution,” he says. “Plus it’s not only the type of plant that affects treatment, it’s the growing characteristics. A plant in one lake might not be a problem, but only 20 miles away that same plant could be invasive.”

This is where years of experience and knowledge come into play. “In aquatics, there are not as many choices for herbicides to use, plus we are dealing with an ecosystem and balancing fishing, swimming, and other water activity,” Donahoe says. “Sometimes, folks want weeds left in for the fish. In aquatics, the fact that all ponds and lakes have different personalities means that none of them are treated the same.” Donahoe says the main method of control for his company has been boats with spray systems. But he says there are a lot of factors that come into play.

Stevenson says, “The treatments can vary widely. Some may require scuba dive work, some mechanical, and some manual. It really comes down to the plant and understanding what it takes to deal with it.”
 

Teamwork.

While tackling aquatic weeds on your own might not be a wise decision, Stevenson says LCOs can definitely find ways to work more efficiently with aquatic weed control operators. He says Lycott does sub work for a number of landscapers who call them in for their specialized service.

Landscapers can also make an effort to prevent some of the aquatic weeds that occur in the first place. Donahoe says preventing fertilizer from running into ponds when it rains is critical. “Also, keep pellets off the roads and sidewalks as this fertilizer just makes it down to the drain and then flows into the lakes or ponds,” he says.

“Additionally, leaf clippings and other organic plant materials can also cause problems in the water as they decompose,” Weinsier says. “The introduction of detritus to lakes during landscape activities can accelerate weed growth. Landscapers should also be certain that no exotic plant, shrub or tree materials enter lakes or ponds.”

And if you do have a big aquatic weed job to tackle, know when it’s time to call in the experts. Stevenson says that the states already know who is licensed to do the work so going through your state to find a professional is a safe bet. He adds that landscapers should also be prepared for the longevity of management that's involved in this type of work.

He says it might be more time consuming than expected. “You can’t make it look better in a week, Steveson says. “Landscapers and also customers are often used to faster results. With snow plowing, for instance, you clear a lot and it looks better immediately. Unfortunately with aquatic weed control you need to be prepared for a long-term scope of solutions.”

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