Why You Should Be Very Careful When Using Herbicides

Like most homeowners, you probably use a weed repellent around your home. Be careful when you spray it and how much you use it.

Heidi Krach, an ornamental gardener at Utah State University, says glyphosate products such as Roundup if taken incorrectly or too high, can cause a condition known as split bark on ornamental trees and other woody plants.

If trees or tree crops are sprayed too close to non-target crops, it will absorb chemicals through their roots, chemicals that damage the bark structure, and destroy the plant's resistance in winter.

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This causes freezing/thawing, which can further cause sunburn. The cosmetic damage is bad enough, but for the owner of the nursery, it renders the plant unsaleable.

The news is not bad. It is not the glyphosate itself that causes the damage, but the surfactants or wetting agents in some products. Surfactants help disperse the chemicals and help them stick to the leaves of target plants so that the glyphosate can be absorbed. Read the label when buying weed killers. Look for "Adjuvant Load" on the label.

This is a surfactant. The following products do not contain surfactants: Campaign, Fallow Star, Glypro, Landmaster BW, Rodeo, and Roundup Custom. However, proper use is still needed. What is the safe distance to spray glyphosate from tree plants? 30 feet is the recommended distance.

Glyphosate products should be used as a last resort for weed control. Pre-grown herbicides are a better alternative but must be used before the weed seeds germinate. According to Maggie Shao, Kratsch, and Salt Lake County Extension gardener, the following woody plants are most susceptible to glyphosate:

    * Pyrus species (especially Callery Pear)

    * Prunus species (especially the Yoshino cherry and Kwanzan cherry)

    * Red maple

    * Norwegian maple (especially "Emerald Queen")