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by Roland Krusi, Agricultural CoordinatorRoadsides are an ideal location for weeds to thrive because they provide a wide variety of growing conditions, the desirable vegetation is commonly disturbed leaving bare ground exposed, and roadsides act as a collecting site for weed seeds blown in the wind or dropping from vehicles. These invasive weeds pose a risk to native vegetation, can interfere with sightlines and stop snow.To reduce the threat of these invasive plants, Red Deer County uses an Integrated Pest Management approach (IPM). IPM involves understanding the pest to be controlled and using a combination of methods to achieve acceptable control. These methods include: cultural, mechanical, biological, and chemical control. The County uses seeding to encourage the establishment of desirable vegetation and reduce the opportunity for the establishment of weeds, mowing is used to help reduce the spread of certain weeds and seeds, and herbicide is used to reduce and eliminate perennial weeds that are already established.The Roadside Weed Control Program has been operational in the County for several decades. The Program involves County staff traveling County roads and highways looking for and spot spraying weeds listed in the Alberta Weed Control Act. The use of the spot spraying methods reduces the amount of herbicide used without sacrificing the level of control achieved while having a minimal effect on the desirable/native vegetation.A secondary target for the Roadside Weed Control Program is tall growing brush and small trees. Brush and trees pose a major risk to the safety of humans and wildlife. Brush and trees can block sightlines at intersections, conceal wildlife that may run onto the roadway, impede the movement of farm equipment, and increase the snow drifting potential on roads. Trees also shade the roadway which increases the amount of time the road takes to dry in the spring or after a rainfall. The increased drying time significantly increases the maintenance costs of a road.The 2017 Roadside Weed Control Program will begin May 15 and will continue until October 31. Any landowner can opt out of this program for the ditches that are adjoined to their land by contacting the County and completing a Vegetation Control Agreement. The agreement states that the County will not apply herbicide, but the landowner must control noxious weeds, destroy prohibited noxious weeds, and maintain proper signage (provided by Red Deer County). The agreements are permanent until they are either terminated by the landowner or Red Deer County.To ensure that staff has enough time to amend the roadside spraying program, the deadline to sign up for Vegetation Control Agreements is May 15, 2017. The the deadline for Ditch Haying Permit Applications is also May 15, 2017. More information on Vegetation Control Agreements and Ditch Haying Permits is available on the Red Deer County website. If you have any questions about Vegetation Control agreements or if you would like to sign up, please contact the Agricultural Services Department at 403.342.8654.