What Return Can You Expect From Investing in Brush Management?
The answer depends on your goals for your land.
By Ellen H. Brisendine
What return on investment (ROI) can you expect from managing the brush on your land? Answer this question by asking yourself more questions. What do you want to do with that land? What are the problem plants on that land?
Rob Brooks, territory manager with Corteva Agriscience at China, between Beaumont and Liberty in East Texas, says the answers to these questions will guide you in setting a budget, determining the timing and method of treatment and evaluating the results to see if you reached a reasonable ROI.
Brooks outlines several goals ranchers and landowners may have. Those goals range from growing more forage so the landowner can reduce hay purchases or increase stocking rate, to breaking up a monoculture that renders the land useless, to the sheer enjoyment of a beautiful landscape.
Read more of his comments about landowner goals here.
Problem plants will prescribe the proper application
The two main types of herbicide application are broadcast treatment or individual plant treatment (IPT). “First we ask how many plants per acre are in the area to be treated because when you get around 300 or more problem plants per acre, we recommend broadcast treatment,” Brook says.
Broadcast treatment will allow the landowner to treat a large acreage or dense brush population effectively enough to get some control over the mix of plants, and “then you can go back and clean up with the individual plant treatments.”
From most- to least-expensive, the broadcast application treatment methods are by helicopter, fixed-wing aircraft or airplane, and ground vehicle.
“Helicopters can be fairly surgical in application because they can hover and move around with more precision than a fixed-wing aircraft,” Brooks says. In general terms, helicopter application can run $20 to $25 per acre.
Fixed-wing aircraft are less precise but can cover a lot of acres. This type of application can cost in the neighborhood of $10-15 per acre.
Ground broadcast, using a truck with a large boom sprayer, is less expensive than either aerial application, running $10 or less per acre. However, the conditions of the land can affect the cost of the ground application.
“If they are running over smooth ground such as cropland and they can move at a pretty good pace, the cost can be lower,” Brooks says. “When you get into areas of Texas with thicker brush or rough ground like that caused by feral hogs, the cost can increase. This is because damage to equipment can occur if the driver hits a feral hog rut and breaks a spring, or he could run over a shed deer antler due to low visibility in thick brush and damage a $2,000 tire,” Brooks explains.
Evaluate the acreage you plan to treat. Would aerial or broadcast application make the best sense and fit into your budget? Once that question is answered, then consider the cost of the herbicide or herbicides. Which herbicide has the best effect on reducing your target species? Could you treat two species at a time?
These are the kinds of questions Brooks and his colleagues at Corteva, and range management professionals at USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the University Extension Service, can help you answer.
“This is one of the reasons we do what we do,” Brooks says. “We go out and consult with folks individually so we can look at their place and see what kind of problems they have. We typically try to target the worst problems first and get those out of the way.
“There is not any one chemical that I can say, ‘If you spend $8 an acre on this chemical, you can expect to double your return on investment on your grass.’ There are so many factors that go into determining what will happen once the brush is reduced, such as the kind of grass you have, the rainfall you get, your stocking rates. These factors and the return on investment will vary on every different ranch,” he says.
While there is no universally exact Outcome/Input=ROI formula for determining a return on investment in brush management, there is a high cost of doing nothing. Clients who have taken a hands-off approach to brush management and who let nature take its course have called Brooks saying, “‘This is awful. We can’t get in there at all. We can’t do anything with it. We can’t feed the wildlife that we thought we were going to get.’ I encourage landowners to set their goals, learn to identify their problem plants and then use the resources we and others provide to generate income and enjoyment from their land.”
Monthly Chores Stock up on your plant identification books, websites, and smartphone apps so you can start identifying those problem plants when they are small and cheaper to treat.
Rob Brooks says he has two copies of Weeds of the West, by Larry C. Burrill, Steven A. Dewey, David W. Cudney, B. E. Nelson, and edited by Tom D. Whitson. “I keep one in the office and one with me as I travel.”
Dr. Charlie Hart, with Corteva Agriscience, helped develop the website Plants of Texas Range Lands, rangeplants.tamu.edu, when he was with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. “That website has weeds that are specific to Texas. Users can search for plants by name or by characteristics, such as bloom color,” Brooks says.
“The Extension publication Chemical Weed and Brush Control Suggestions for Rangeland, RM- 1466 is great for references on products to use. It will give you recommendations from the Extension Service on what their research has shown to work best on various plants.”
You can also find Corteva weed identification guides and product recommendation literature at the 2019 Cattle Raisers Convention and Expo at the Corteva booth.
Helicopter, Airplane, Truck — Where Do I Find an Applicator? The word-of-mouth network still seems to be the best way to find an herbicide applicator service. “Talk to your neighbors, your County Agricultural Extension or your USDA NRCS district conservationist. They will usually have some contacts. Or, contact one of our Corteva territory managers,” says Rob Brooks. “We work with a vast network of people. We can provide several trusted sources for the landowners to contact.”
What Return Can You Expect… is excerpted from the March 2019 edition of The Cattleman magazine. Join today to start your subscription.
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