Archive for Thursday, May 29, 2008

Johnson County weed control going green

May 29, 2008

Johnson County is going "green" in the way it deals with roadside weeds. By mowing less often and using an environmental friendly herbicide, the county hopes to realize savings in time, labor and fuel.

The Johnson County Commission approved seed head suppression program, a part of the 2008 Annual Noxious Weed Management Plan, was approved last Thursday.

James Hoge, noxious weed director for the Johnson County Department of Public Works and Infrastructure, said the program will nip unwanted vegetation along county roadsides in the bud. In doing so, he hopes to trim the department's normal summer mowing schedule in half.

Mowing more than necessary means higher costs, especially in fuel, and added risks for county crews. He said work performed by the vegetation crew is extremely labor intensive and the risk of accidents while performing in the roadway is high.

Failing to mow, as needed, also can be equally problematic resulting in overgrown roadsides and possible blind intersections that pose a danger to drivers.

"It's killing two birds with one stone by eliminating or inhibiting the growth rate of nuisance weeds and cutting operating costs," he said. "It is our long-term goal for the seed head suppression program to increase road worker and motorist safety and to reduce our footprint on the environment in Johnson County."

Hoge plans to manage the juggling act among vegetation control, program cost and worker and driver safety through the Seed Head Suppression Program.

In the past, the department's roadside vegetation management crew had to clear vegetation surrounding guide rails, signs and bridges and mow the county's roadsides an average of three to five times a year. They used four to six mowing tractors, consuming more than 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel ( roughly 148 barrels of crude oil) and requiring about 600 man hours. Total area of mowing was about 650 acres at a cost of $56 per acre, or $37,000 per cut.

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