Copper Considerations

No single herbicide is appropriate for controlling all invasive aquatic plants (or nuisance growths of native aquatic plants), in all situations. A herbicide may perform differently depending on the waterbody, its use, the time of year—or even the time of day. Therefore, aquatic plant managers must have a thorough understanding of how each herbicide acts in Florida aquatic systems. The following parameters are evaluated when considering this herbicide to manage aquatic plants in a specific waterbody. Each parameter is linked to an explanation and examples are provided to demonstrate their relevance to developing comprehensive aquatic plant management strategies.

Table A: Herbicide Use Patterns for Copper

Herbicide Use Patterns Considerations
Use in Florida Generally limited to waters where no other feasible control method is available
Primarily used by water facilities to control algae in potable water reservoirs
Occasional use to control floating plants near potable water intakes
Occasionally applied with diquat to control new, small-scale hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) discoveries at boat ramps where the objective is immediate eradication

Table B: Water Uses and Functions

Water Use Parameters Management Considerations
Downstream Uses and Needs See irrigation and flood control reservoir parameters below
Fish and Wildlife Mgmt.  
Vegetation planting Avoid applications within newly installed aquatic revegetation sites
Forage and prey May be toxic to apple snails at hydrilla application rates
Fisheries May be toxic to some fish, especially trout
Fish toxicity generally decreases as water hardness increases
Non-game wildlife No issues related to this tool
Endangered species Discontinued use in areas accessible by manatees
Waterfowl No issues related to this tool; practically non-toxic to birds
Flood Control Only used on small scale control; no issues related to this tool
Navigation and Access No issues related to this tool
Irrigation No issues related to this tool
Livestock Consumption No water use restriction
Potable Water No water use restriction
Boating No issues related to this tool
Fishing No fishing restrictions
Hunting No issues related to this tool
Swimming No swimming restrictions

Table C:  Herbicide, Waterbody, Plant, and Climate Parameters

Herbicide Parameters Management Considerations
Herbicide Rate Generally applied in combination with diquat for hydrilla control at concentration in water of 1ppm
Applied at rates of 0.75-1.0ppm for floating plant control near potable water intakes
Breakdown / Inactivation As an element, copper can persist indefinitely; however, it binds to particulates in water and sediments
Adsorption Adsorbs to organic materials and clay particles
Degree of adsorption depends on acidity and alkalinity
Dissipation Generally does not disperse widely in treated waterbodies due to precipitation, settling, adsorption
Liquid Available in organic complex called copper chelate designed to keep in solution as long as possible
Solid Copper sulfate available in crystal formulations; also called blue stone
Copper chelate available in granulated or pelletized formulations
Mode of Action
Contact Disrupts photosynthesis
Plant Growth Regulator Used as herbicide for aquatic plant control applications in FWC programs
Functions as growth inhibitor or growth regulator at lower rates
Herbicide resistance Resistance reported in blue-green algae after repeated use over decades in Minnesota
Used occasionally for aquatic plant control in Florida and often in combination with other herbicides
Waterbody Parameters Management Considerations
Water depth and volume Important to maintain prescribed dose; therefore, accurate bathymetry is imperative for hydrilla control
Water movement Not generally an issue with aquatic plant control use patterns
Applied to floating plant leaves or with diquat or Aquathol for spot control at boat ramps
Water chemistry  
Dissolved oxygen (DO) May be an issue for large-scale algae control in potable water reservoirs
Generally not an issue with the small-scale aquatic plant control use patterns in Florida
pH, alkalinity, hardness In waters with less than 50ppm alkalinity, copper may be toxic to fish at rates applied to control plants
Copper sulfate precipitates in waters with high alkalinity (greater than 250ppm)
Copper precipitation less of a concern with chelated copper formulations
Nutrient content
Fast acting, but generally not an issue with the small-scale aquatic plant control use patterns in Florida
Water transparency Color/tannic content – no issues
Turbidity – avoid applications to highly turbid waters
Sediment characteristics  
Composition   Sand/Clay –  adsorption to organic particulates and clay sediments
Organic – adsorption to suspended organic particles

Avoid applying pellets to deep flocculent organic sediments

Potential for resuspension Avoid disturbing sediments when applying to shallow waters
Plant Physiology Parameters Management Considerations
Plant origin/ growth potential  
Native Used for short-term algae control
Invasive   Used for water hyacinth or water lettuce control near potable water intakes
Used for small-scale or spot control of newly discovered hydrilla populations targeted for eradication
Plant growth stage (target/non-target) Shorter exposure periods may be applicable for young, actively growing plants
Plant susceptibility (target/non-target)
Apply to actively growing target plants
High rates are required to control floating plants but there are no potable water restrictions
Fast control when combined with diquat so used to quickly eradicate hydrilla from boat ramp areas
Potential for regrowth (target/non-target) Provides long-term control of floating plants
Used for rapid control of new hydrilla populations before hydrilla can establish tubers
Climate Parameters Management Considerations
Weather Daily
avoid applications during high wind and wave conditions to minimize turbidity
avoid large-scale applications during hot summer months
Water temperature Fish toxicity increases during hot summer months, especially in waters with low alkalinity

Table D: Other Parameters

Parameter Management Considerations
Cost Relatively inexpensive, but short-term algae control
Anticipated Control Amount  
Spatial Acres
Contact herbicide generally does not disperse
Acres of hydrilla controlled generally equals acres of plants to which herbicide is applied
Percent of water column – no issues related to this tool
Duration Used to control new hydrilla populations before they become established so long-term control is expected
Time to Achieve Control Fairly fast acting for floating (few days) and submersed plants (several days)
Contractor/Equipment Apply by hand-gun and airboat for small acreages of floating plants or hydrilla
Apply by hoses trailing from airboat for submersed plant control
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