Diagnosing Herbicide Injury in Landscapes and Nurseries

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Herbicides provide highly effective and efficient means to eliminate unwanted plants (weeds) in landscapes and nurseries. Unfortunately, with vague labels and misunderstandings about the chemicals in herbicide products, mistakes often happen, leading to impacts on non-target plants. These impacts may cause symptoms ranging from minor cosmetic concerns to severe injury and to plant death. When valuable plants such as trees are involved, liability for mishaps may be staggering; herbicide toxicity issues are often catastrophic compared to other mistakes. These mistakes are made by professional applicators and homeowners alike. When property owners (our clientele) make errors, they are often reluctant to acknowledge even the application of a chemical, and we as tree or plant professionals may be blamed.

Herbicides are not well understood by the public who nevertheless adore using them. Herbicide product ingredients and labels are constantly changing, leading to additional confusion from year to year. We must also learn to differentiate herbicide toxicity issues from pests, diseases, and other maladies we may encounter.

Dave Roberts

Dr. Dave Roberts

Dr. Dave Roberts has researched many issues in Michigan’s plant industry, including Oak Wilt, Dutch Elm Disease, and Diplodia Tip Blight of Pines, along with a variety of cultural problems such as plant nutrition and herbicide toxicity. During his career, he has discovered a variety of new diseases and pests such as Phomopsis Canker of Spruce and the first bacterial wilt disease of turfgrasses in North America. In the early 2000s, his research on Ash Decline in Southeast Michigan led to the discovery of the invasive Emerald Ash Borer in North America. 

In his retirement, Dr. Roberts intends to remain active with the Green Industry. Dr. Roberts is President, CEO and CBW (Chief Bottle Washer) of The Plant Doctor, LLC…aka the Tree Doctor.

The Plant Doctor, LLC