Power Equipment Australasia

As weeds become increasingly resistant to chemical herbicides, pressure is mounting to find alternative methods for weed control throughout Australia. JOHN POWER investigates the use of electric current to tackle weeds. Electro Weeding Sparks Interest OPERATOR: Department of Primary Industries & Regional Development, WA LOCATION: Southwest Western Australia CONTACT: www.wa.gov.au Herbicides are losing their effectiveness across the world in the never-ending battle against weeds, prompting renewed interest in alternative methods to eradicate or suppress pest plants. Just as importantly, there is a widespread philosophical desire to minimise the use of potentially toxic chemicals in sensitive environments, and to ‘find another way’ to control weeds. The use of electric current to kill plants, or ‘electro weeding’, has been acknowledged for over a century, but modern technologies that are both affordable and (hopefully) effective are only now emerging as viable alternatives to chemical herbicides. These technologies, themajority of which aremarketed as tractor-mounted systems for commercial use, are finding boutique markets around the world. In Australia, university research into electro weeding (and variants on the theme) has been underway for years –and now the first research-based trial by a government department is about to commence inWestern Australia. The WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) is awaiting delivery of Zasso tractor-mounted electro weeding machinery from Switzerland in order to conduct a two-year field trial in the state’s Grainbelt region. Units are designed to sweep over weed-infested ground and, upon contact with plants, zap them with an electric current; the charge is meant to kill or severely harm the plant. In February this year, the DPIRD announced that it will join withCase NewHolland Industrial (CNHi) to test the technology’s suitability to control weeds in Australian dryland and irrigated agriculture, in southwest WA. CNHi became a minority shareholder of Zasso back in October 2020, at which time the company also renewed a supply agreement for the XPower Products through the AGXTENDbusiness of CNHi. The trials will examine which weeds are easiest to control with electricity and the technology’s potential uses in Australian agriculture to generate cost savings and influence crop yields. Speaking to a Grains Research Updates 2022 virtual forum in February, DPIRD research scientist OPERATOR PROFILE Units like the XPower XPS zap weeds with an electric current, delivered via charged metal combs sweeping over the ground.