Short Communication

Desiccant herbicides tested for the preparation of fire-break tracer lines, South Africa

Published in: South African Journal of Plant and Soil
Volume 34, issue 4, 2017, pages: 319–322
DOI: 10.1080/02571862.2017.1317855
Author(s): Keith LittleSchool of Natural Resource Management, South Africa, Jonathan RobertsSchool of Natural Resource Management, South Africa


Over the past 32 years, 75 599 ha of plantations within South Africa have been lost through fire. Fire prevention, in the form of firebreaks on landholding boundaries, are required (by law) by landowners from whose land a fire might start or spread. On forestry land, paraquat dichloride (1,1′-dimethyl-4.4′-bipyridinium ion) has been used for the desiccation and subsequent burning of two parallel tracer lines in late summer, prior to the burning of the vegetation bordered by these tracer lines and when conditions allow (early to late autumn). Paraquat is listed as a highly hazardous pesticide within South African forestry, by the Forest Stewardship Council, and will be discontinued for use from 2018. Therefore, alternative contact/defoliation herbicides were tested at various rates for the preparation of tracer lines outside George, Western Cape. The vegetation cover was assessed prior to herbicide application to determine initial herbicide efficacy (16 d after application) and again at vegetation recovery (83 d). Of the products tested, pelargonic acid applied at 7%, 10% and 13% produced results most similar to that of paraquat (82% desiccation at 16 d; 95% vegetation recovery at 83 d). Further testing is required on different sites, and with different vegetation, to improve the timing, rates and methods of application.

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