Burning to control brush can be used at any time throughout the year, when winds, fire bans, humidity and vegetation allow, but the best brush kills occur when the plants are actively green and growing. Late summer is a great time to consider a burn as opposed to late winter or early spring when brush species are dormant. The last key point to consider regarding prescribed fire is that it can prove to be a liability if conducted improperly. Loss of life, livestock and property are certainly possible if a fire burns where or when it shouldn’t. Always contact a natural resource professional and all local emergency officials before considering a controlled burn on your property to control brush.
Mechanical control is another great way to control brush, but it can be extremely expensive depending on the method used. Trackhoes, bulldozers (large timber), roller chopping or chaining (small brush) or hand cutting are a few options. While they can provide almost instant results, a few of these methods can be quite labor intensive and cost a tremendous amount of money. Mechanical control also can cause erosion and scar the landscape for many years so it is important to weigh all options and consider results before choosing mechanical control.
While some brush chemicals and spray applications can be costly, chemicals still provide the most common and oftentimes inexpensive brush control. From spot spraying on an ATV, to aerial spraying large tracts of land, this method will provide excellent results. There are a number of chemical applications such as liquid, powders and pellets, and each is designed to eradicate certain species of trees and shrubs differently. Although chemical control is one of the most widespread control methods used today, it can negatively affect wildlife, fish, water quality and non-target plants if applied improperly. This is why is important to positively identify the species you want to control and always read the herbicide label before spraying.
Brush is good for some wildlife managers and bad for some cattle producers. Not everyone wants to control brush and in fact, some people welcome it. It all depends on your land objectives and what you hope to achieve.
Heath Herje is with the Cleveland County Cooperative Extension service.