Dedicated ditch device reduces rural road costs

BRANDON — Farmers and rural municipalities that maintain gravel and dirt roads shudder at the bills for grading, mowing and shrub grinding.

“We had a number of customers come to us, looking for a better way to take care of their roads with chemicals rather than mechanically,” said Ryan Suffron of Ag Shield.

“They wanted to know if there was such a thing as a dedicated road side sprayer.”

Customers wanted something adaptable to a one ton or three-quarter ton pickup.

There were numerous assemblages of sprayer components that could squirt into a ditch, but nothing had been designed from scratch just for road maintenance.

“So we decided to design something specifically for road top, ditch and far side of the ditch spraying,” he said.

“This had to be a multi-purpose sprayer that performed all the tasks in a single pass at a normal 15 m.p.h. Customers wanted it to handle two to three different products at the same time. The single-pass Ag Shield Road Side Sprayer we came up with does road top glyphosate for grasses and other weeds on gravel and dirt roads. At the same time, we hit the shoulders and ditches with 2,4-D for broadleaf weeds and volunteer crops from seeds blown off passing trucks. We also hit the far side of the ditch to get those shrubs and low growing trees.”

Suffron said the optional wand and hose reel allows the operator to stop and hit taller trees or weed patches that the end nozzles don’t reach.

Grasshoppers and other insects breed in the protective cover of roadside vegetation, and Suffron said additional tanks and meters can be installed for applying insecticide during the weed control operation.

Dust control agents can also be applied through the top boom, but not during chemical applications.

“The Road Side Sprayer uses the same Ag Shield cover we’ve had for years, so you can do your road maintenance spraying at 15 m.p.h. with crops on both sides of the road, even in winds up to 25 m.p.h.”

Suffron said the problem with grading is that the blade moves the same material back and forth many times. It takes sod from the side and brings it into the centre, where it mixes with gravel.

The operator then makes another pass to push the mixture back to the shoulder. If the cut edge is lower than the remaining sod on the shoulder, it creates a dam that retains water.

Ultimately, more gravel must be added to ensure a safe roadway.

“If the grass on the road top was controlled chemically, the grader wouldn’t need to make all those passes. The operator would only need to deal with gravel and not with big chunks of sod,” Suffron said.

“The costs of diesel fuel, manpower, grader maintenance, grader blades and extra gravel would all be reduced.”

Suffron said volunteer crops from passing trucks combine with prolific weeds such as Russian thistle and kochia to form big problems on the shoulders and near sides of ditches.

He said the rules for controlling noxious weeds and volunteer crops on road allowances have become stricter, but the technology to meet that legislative criteria has been lagging.

Mowing takes care of the shoulders nearest the road top, but it’s difficult to get the mower into the bottom and far side of the ditch, especially in wet years. As well, mowers need to cover the same area three or four times a summer.

“When you think about it, you’re wasting all those mower passes. You need one mower pass in the fall to drop the grass before winter, but that’s all you need,” he said.

“The weeds and volunteer crops can all be controlled with chemicals. That ditch grass isn’t doing any harm until November when the snow flies.”

Shrubs, willows and other larger forms of vegetation generally thrive on the far sides of ditches.

The risk of herbicides drifting into a crop standing just beyond that shrub line prevents most spray operators from giving these nuisance trees their full shot. The taller the shrubs, the greater the risk of spray drifting into the crop.

As a result, the shrub line often requires an expensive mechanical cutting and shredding operation followed by hand spraying to kill the stumps. Suffron said the shielded boom on his company’s machine lets operators put the third boom right up against the crop without the risk of crop damage.

“That third boom is also protected by the Ag Shield cover,” he said.

“It reaches out 21 feet from the shoulder. The challenge for the third boom is to kill all those unwanted plants on the far side without hurting the crop just beyond the ditch. We think this new setup allows operators to do just that.”

Gauge wheels under the booms let operators control nozzle height to prevent drift and protect the nozzles.

Prices range from $3,000 to $15,000.

For more information, contact Suffron at 800-561-0132 or visit

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