1. All Articles
  2. Publications
  3. Noble News and Views
  4. 2007
  5. December

Brush Control without Spraying Leaves

  Estimated read time:

Some people want to control brush, but don't have a sprayer, have too much brush to use a sprayer or just want to do selective brush control. There are several options, each with advantages and disadvantages.

Basal Bark

Basal bark spraying is done by spraying a mixture of herbicide and diesel fuel on the lower bark of trees and brush. It works well on trees less than 6 inches in diameter. It can be done at any time of the year except when the soil is completely saturated with water or frozen. The most common herbicide used in basal bark spray is Remedy.

The low volume basal bark spray uses 20 to 30 percent herbicide mixed with diesel and is applied to the entire circumference of the lower 12 to 15 inches of the treated stem. Application should continue until the bark is thoroughly wet, but not until the point of runoff.

Advantages of basal bark spraying are that you can do it almost any time of the year and you can be very selective with the trees you want to kill. Disadvantages are that diesel is hard on the seals of sprayer pumps and you have to carry a good bit of spray volume with you.

Single Stem Basal Soil

The single stem basal soil treatment involves squirting 2 to 4 ml of undiluted herbicide per inch of tree diameter onto the soil within 3 feet of the root collar of the brush you wish to control. The size of the tree is based on its diameter at 4 feet 6 inches high. If you are treating resprouts, the amount of chemical should be based on the original size of the tree, not the regrowth.

Do not apply the product directly to the tree, but to the soil around the tree. Treatment is done from late winter through summer. The most common product used for single stem basal soil treatment is Velpar, although Tordon can be used for cedar control.

This treatment uses an exact delivery gun similar to a cattle de-worming gun. You can use a regular cattle de-worming gun if you like, but the trigger pull is hard on most of them and your hand may become tired. There are applicators made specifically for basal soil herbicides, or you can find a more expensive cattle gun with an easier trigger pull.

The main advantage to the single stem basal soil treatment is cost. It is the cheapest way to control brush chemically. Also, since you are using low amounts of undiluted product, you do not carry around a large volume of material. The main disadvantage is that it is not selective. If a desirable tree has a root in the area where you apply the herbicide, it will be damaged or killed.


Herbicide pellets are easy to use and convenient. You can even carry some around and treat brush whenever you encounter it. The most common pellets are Pronone Power Pellets and Spike 20P pellets. These pellets are applied to the soil around the brush to be controlled. They are basically the same treatment as the single stem basal soil except the herbicide is in pellets instead of a liquid.

Herbicide pellets can be applied anytime the soil is not saturated with water or frozen, but the labels state that best results are obtained if applied during the growing season.

The primary advantages of pellets are convenience and ease of application. The major disadvantage is the relatively high cost of the pellets compared to single stem basal soil treatments. Another disadvantage is that they are not selective. If a desirable tree has a root in the area you apply the pellets, it will be damaged or killed.

These are three ways to control brush without spraying the leaves. There are others such as injection and cutting the brush down and treating the stumps, but space does not permit their discussion here. No matter what approach you choose, remember to read the label thoroughly before using any pesticide.

Eddie Funderburg, Ed.D., previously served as a senior soils and crops consultant at Noble Research Institute, from 2000-2021. His bachelor’s degree is from Louisiana Tech University and his master’s degree and doctorate are from Louisiana State University. Before coming to Noble Research Institute, he worked at Mississippi State University and Louisiana State University as state extension soil specialist.