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February 2, 2017 -  By

Dandelion-rosette-700x325LCOs who offer flexible application programs can enhance results and keep customers happy, while using less product more efficiently.

In any business, it’s wise to stay flexible. That’s particularly true for lawn care operators looking to keep their customers’ lawns weed free. Experts agree that offering flexible application programs can enhance results and keep customers happy, while using less product more efficiently.

jamie_breuninger

Jamie Breuninger

“LCOs frequently recognize that service calls and addressing customer complaints are part of the business, but I believe they should look for solutions on how best to prevent these complaints in the first place,” says Jamie Breuninger, technical leader for Dow AgroSciences Turf & Ornamental division, headquartered in Indianapolis. “The benefits of a flexible application program allow LCOs to tailor their applications to the customer and get the best results at the time the application is made. Products will perform well if applied at the right time, at the right rate, and with a uniform application as advised on the product label.”

Sam Bauer, extension educator of turfgrass science at the University of Minnesota Extension in St. Paul, says there are numerous benefits to offering flexible application programs, and he recommends more LCOs work toward operating this way. While this approach requires more time to identify weeds on each property and more technical expertise to determine the appropriate treatment, Bauer says LCOs can expect better results. He adds that companies can hire a technical herbicide expert to train their staff or enroll technicians in a course offered by a local institution to help increase their knowledge.

Sam Bauer

Sam Bauer

“Many LCOs charge a certain amount of dollars and provide a certain number of treatments, and homeowners are used to that,” Bauer says. “But flexible programs suit homeowners’ needs and LCOs will likely use less product and get better control using different products to treat specific issues, instead of having one product in their arsenal to treat every lawn. This approach has economic benefits and can increase customer satisfaction.”

For Rodney Creech, owner of Lawns Plus in West Alexandria, Ohio, a flexible program for his company is one that controls 90 percent of the weed spectrum. He achieves this by blanketing lawns with a three-way product and by using specialty products to control difficult weeds, such as wild violet or nimblewill, as needed. Creech adds that by using three-way products, his applicators only have to learn the ins and outs of two or three products, which makes their jobs easier. Because these products have been proven on the market, Creech adds that he sees very few issues with performance. Lawns Plus, a $1.8-million company, offers lawn and tree care services to an 80-percent residential, 20-percent commercial clientele.

Rodney Creech

Rodney Creech

“A three-way product is the most flexible product you can have,” Creech says. “You can apply it in the spring, summer and fall and control 90 percent of the weed spectrum. Our program is simple and flexible.”

When selecting a product, Creech’s main concern is that it works under a variety of environmental conditions. He then has to consider price, and he says he has had to alter his programs when the price of a product goes up.

“Not that we cut corners, but we are treating 7,000 acres a year, so a price increase of $5 an acre is not a small increase for us,” he says. “We are willing to spend more money, but everything has to line up.

“The main thing for anyone searching for a program is to find products that meet your needs, your customers’ needs and your budget,” Creech adds. “Knowing your customers and knowing your market will help tell you what products to select.”

Bauer notes that LCOs should seek out unbiased research, such as university studies, when selecting products. They should also consider the product’s environmental impacts, how long the product lasts and how effective it is on the particular weeds they’re trying to control. He recommends the resource “Turfgrass Weed Control for Professionals,” which ranks the effectiveness of every herbicide on the market and helps LCOs develop effective weed control programs for golf courses, athletic fields and residential and commercial lawns. The guide is updated annually and can be found online.

Scouting-for-weeds-in-early-spring-250x349“From a herbicide standpoint, LCOs should look for products that suit their needs,” Bauer says. “They will have to find the best product that will work for the range of weeds they have. It will also need to be cost effective, but should have few environmental implications.”

After selecting a product, Breuninger stresses the importance of paying close attention to the appropriate application rates and the best time of year to apply the product for maximum effectiveness.

“If we look at weed control in the spring, we know as the weeds mature they are harder to control and products will not perform as well,” he says. “Timely applications are important for the best success, but LCOs also need to realize that different products vary in effectiveness when applied at different times throughout the year.

“Use products that will do the best job at the time of the year when you are making the applications,” Breuninger adds. “The products may come at a higher price, but if you only need the products on 30 percent of your customers’ properties, the expense is reduced when averaged across your entire customer base. You are providing better service by being proactive and matching the products to the time of year when they perform best.”

Images: Dow AgroSciences Turf & Ornamental

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Emily Schappacher

About the Author:

Emily Schappacher is a freelance writer based in Cleveland.

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