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There are several basic types of herbicides, each targeting certain plant pests (weeds, grasses.)
Pre-emergent herbicides are used to stop the germination of plant seeds.
Post emergent herbicides can be selective or non-selective, used to kill existing weeds.
Products such as Eraser (Roundup, QuickPro) can be considered non selective and post emergent.
A non-selective herbicide tries to kill most plants.
Selective herbicides are designed to kill specific types of plants, usually grasses or broad leaf weeds.
Trimec (for example) recognizes broad-leaf weeds and ignores grasses.
TIP: When spraying herbicides on plants, a surfactant can be used to increase the efficiency of herbicides.
Total vegetation products (listed on this page) are considered soil sterilizers, killing all plant nutrients in the soil and preventing any vegetation from surviving. Great care should be taken with this type of product. Effects can last up to a year, allowing nothing to grow. Great for fence rows, terrible for lawns.
A non-selective herbicide tries to kill any vegetation to which it is applied.
Compare this to a SELECTIVE herbicide that is designed to kill certain types of vegetation while usually not harming other types.
Non selective herbicides are used to kil grasses, broadleaf plants and even shrubs and small trees.
Selective herbicides generally attack certain types of vegetation. In lawns (for instance) broadleaf weed killers are a popular choice as they kill broadleaf weeds while not harming grasses.
Vegetation control or soil sterilation products are used to deplete nutrients in the soil for up to a year, preventing any plant from surviving. Mainly used for right-of-ways, drive ways, etc.
Take great care when using this type of product. Read and follow label instructions.
Surfactants help pesticides and herbicides stick to plants being sprayed. In the case of herbicides, a good surfactant will also help herbicides to last longer and penetrate deeper.