Farm Progress

Weed and brush control decisions now aided with online tool

Jeffrey Stapper

December 23, 2009

3 Min Read

Pestman, a new online application for weed and brush control, is now publicly available, according to a Texas AgriLife Research scientist. “Pestman is a decision-support system that provides sound pest management options associated with weed and brush control, as well as costs associated with the options considered,” said Wayne Hamilton, AgriLife Research range scientist and lead researcher with the Center for Natural Resource Information Technology. “This tool allows managers to analyze the economic and environmental risks associated with controlling pests invading forage lands.”

The application is a collaborative effort of federal and state agencies, including U.S. Department of Agriculture-Risk Management Agency, New Mexico State University, AgriLife Research, Texas AgriLife Extension Service, the Texas A&M System, and private industry, including Grazing land Management Systems Inc., and AgForce consulting companies.

The new Pestman application was built with some previously existing tools for making range decisions, Hamilton said. "The old program used was known as EXSEL, which was created more than 20 years ago,” Hamilton said. “It was still being used, but the problem was it got out of date as companies began to market the same (chemical) compounds under their (herbicide trade) name. It was never built in a database system where that information or costs for mechanical and chemical treatments could be updated easily.”

Another feature not available in EXSEL was the ability to calculate economic outcomes when creating a scenario using mechanical or chemical brush or weed treatment alternatives, Hamilton said. “We wanted to bring an economic component into a single program combined with the technology selection capability,” he said. "We had another decision support system that provided this capability, the Grazing lands Alternative Analysis Tool."

Hamilton said they wanted to make the tool available so users could develop an economic analysis and see what the cost would be over a 10-year to 20-year period.

"Pestman is an integrated tool of all of these previous tools into one unified system,” he said.

Loren Naylor, research assistant and one of the online tool's developers, said Pestman provides the user with cost estimates of mechanical and weed and brush treatments.

“Costs of treatments are updated annually,” he said. “This tool provides the treatment with an example forage response curve that can be easily modified to mimic forage response specific to the user’s range condition.”

Pestman combines the best of both EXSEL and GAAT, Naylor said.

The user starts by selecting the pest plant, state of residence (currently only valid in Texas and New Mexico), and plant density. The Pestman program returns the best available treatments and their effectiveness along with cost per acre and application rates for chemical treatments. The user is then asked to select a treatment alternative.

“The user may build or adjust an estimated forage increase graph in Pestman which helps calculate the cost-benefit ratio and net present value of the selected treatment or treatments over a maximum 20-year planning horizon,” Naylor said. The user then adds improvement profiles, including any desired maintenance treatments. Finally, the user enters their enterprise budget with specific information regarding their grazing enterprise.

Pestman uses forage response curves “in combination with user-specific enterprise data and treatment scenarios to calculate an economic summary, including net present value and internal rate of return on the selected investment scenario compared to no treatment," Naylor said. "These data can be downloaded and compared to other scenarios.”

The Pestman decision support system was approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Risk Management Agency earlier this fall and is available online for producers, range consultants and others in the brush and weed control industry. It can be found at I have used this tool and it is excellent as it provides a wealth of information regarding the plants that you are investigating, so the next time you are browsing the Web, go check out this site and do some online weed and brush management.

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