Are Electricides the Future of Weed Control?
As herbicides continue to garner quite a bit of negative public attention, an alternative to conventional weed suppression methods may be available to farmers within the next year – electricides.
A UK company called RootWave is seeking to develop new technology that will allow farmers to kill weeds using electricity. The idea of using high voltage to take out weeds reaches back to the 1800’s, but practically applying this in a field setting has been tricky.
RootWave is planning to develop an 8 to 12 row unit that will be pulled behind a tractor. The unit will use a camera to visually identify weeds and then send a 5,000 volt shock threw them all while moving along at a 3 mph pace. The shock moves through the plant all the way to the tip of the root causing instant death.
The exact voltage the unit provides can be adjusted based upon a variety of factors including the type of root, soil type, and moisture content. And although RootWave currently has the ability to handle weeds under 2 inches, there are plans to make the technology usable on weeds that have already reached maturity.
Concerns about whether this new method will harm soil microbes, an integral part of a healthy soil, have been voiced, but according to RootWave their doesn’t seem to be any negative effect on them. More scientific research will be conducted, though.
The goal is to make the RootWave a more affordable option than chemical herbicides that can often be pricey. According to Andrew Diprose, the company’s CEO, “This will start as cost-comparable with herbicides, but in time, the potential is strong for lower than chemical cost. There are basically no inputs other than capital depreciation.”
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