Willows in wetlands can improve an ecosystem and at the same time take over the whole wetland area. Willows can be considered weeds if growing where you don’t want them. You need to take in consideration where they are located and what they are providing for environment, the willows can be removed totally or where needed still protect the environment.
Willows Natives or Weeds
Willows in wetlands enhance the ecosystem and environment, providing nesting areas and cover for a diversity of plants and wildlife. Wetlands make up about 2% of the land area in Colorado, ranging from high elevation wet meadows, peat lands and riparian areas. Playas mainly found out on the eastern plains where rain and floodwaters accumulate, there are alkaline(salt) flats and marshes. Wetlands range from plains to high elevation meadows.
Willows growing along canals, irrigation ditches, leach fields, yards and any place they aren’t wanted can cause major problems. They can end up growing into tile lines and other pipelines, clogging off ditches and taking over places where they are definitely not wanted. Where, ground water is sufficient they just keep expanding their territory. In hay fields and along roadways they can be problems.
In the western states a lot of willow species are natives.
Spraying Herbicides in Wetlands
Herbicide use may change depending on where the willows are located. Are the willows located in water, on the edge of the banks or on dry land where the water table is below the surface. All the information you can obtain can make a difference in how you treat the willows. Take in account the other plants in the area, what kind of broadleaf are present. This determines the herbicide you will use. Maybe there are other options besides the use of herbicides or a combination using integrated pest management, to reduce herbicide use.
Try to keep spray on the willow foliage, watch the wind for drift, use big droplets and keep spray pressure low, use the best type of spray nozzle for the job, watch the temperature and the timing when you make your application. Make sure you read the label on each herbicide you are spraying.
Cut and spraying the willow stumps is also a good way. It can be real time-consuming, however, it does keep any spray off desirable plants and there is very little drift. In this treatment method the willows that you cut also have to be removed, if they contact water they can sprout again. Remove willow cuttings to a dry area.
There are different types of herbicides, some act as a pre-emergent (kills plants when they germinate), selective herbicides (usually for certain plants, mainly broadleaf, read label) and non-selective herbicide (non-descriminate herbicide). You need to read the label, find out what is approved for the location you’re spraying. The application your making can determine what herbicide you use.
Rodeo can be used to spray willows in the water (foliage application), it has the potential to kill everything it comes in contact with and is a non-selective herbicide. Habitat (Imazapyr), Garlon 3A, Garlon4 Ultra and 2,4-D amine 4. These are a few herbicides approved to control willows. Definitely read the label, before applications.
Warning, pay attention to the herbicide you are preparing for use, to make sure it is approved for the area that you will be spraying. To do the job properly and follow label directions takes time. We all like to get a job done and move on but pay attention to the rules and label. As far as spraying weeds or pests this is advice well worth your time.
Alternative IPM Control for Willows
Hand cutting and pulling, mowing and discing if it is possible in your location. All parts of the willows in wetlands can reestablish themselves and start a new plant just by a twig being in contact with water. It’s important to remove willow twigs to a dry area. A plus is the seeds don’t last long in wetland areas. Roots can re sprout too. Don’t get discouraged, you won’t get them all eradicated the first year.
There are no biological controls, that are feasible at this time. There are native insects that work on native willows and it is best if they are used to control non-native species of willows as well, rather than introducing new bio- control measures that could cause other problems to the ecosystem.
Willow Control Equipment
Truck mounted sprayers where you can get close to your work. Intelli-reels are a plus with approximately 3 to 400ft. of hose with remotes rewind from wherever your at in the brush. These sprayers are also used on Argos that get around better than about any other equipment in these kinds of conditions. Backpack sprayers use where you can’t get other mobile equipment.
Cut stump treatment requires pruners for small willows and a small sprayer to spray the stump, shortly after cutting.
Pros and Cons of Willow Control
Willows in the wrong place are considered weeds, in the right place they enhance the environment. When treating an area you want to be careful not to destroy willows where they could help prevent erosion or enhance wildlife habitat. Measure the pros and cons of whatever you are doing.
Improving the Wetlands
Willows in wetlands benefit the environment in many ways. All treatment methods should be thought out and the least invasive plan be implemented for your willow control program.
Herbicide treatments should be done using the least oppressive method of treatment, around aquatic environments herbicides should be applied as precisely and only where needed, using the least damaging treatment method. IPM (integrated pest management) practices should be implemented where practical.
Willows in most places are a good thing but in the wrong place they can cause economic loss in irrigation canals and ditches, hay lands and crop fields, to name a few. Sometimes there is no option but to control the willows, and often in certain circumstance it is necessary for protecting and enhancing the environmental habitat for other wildlife and plants.
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