Electrocution kit targets weeds between field crop rows

Tractor-mounted equipment to electrocute weeds between field vegetable rows could be available within 18 months, its developer and Spectrum-Tec founder Dr Michael Diprose said at the SCEPTRE open day.

The company has been working with the Allium & Brassica Centre to bring forward the technology, which was demonstrated on the day in cauliflowers.

"Your only input cost is three-to-five litres of diesel per hectare," he said. "It's very quick, requires no chemicals, and is more effective than hoeing. You don't want to disturb the topsoil - that will give you fresh weeds."

Drawing its power from the tractor's power take-off shaft, it delivers a "lethal" shock of 5,000 volts through aluminium plates that can be arrayed in different ways, said Diprose. The machine on display was "very much a prototype" and gaining safety accreditation remains a major task, he added.

The idea of electrocuting weeds is nothing new, he explained. "The first patent was filed in 1893 for a steam-operated model and we have previously developed one to control weed beet in sugar beet. But there wasn't the same concern about the loss of chemicals. It's now come of age as growers have to look for alternatives."

For organic growers, it could cut the cost of hand-weeding by 60-70 per cent, said Diprose. The company also aims to produce a handheld version for amenity weed control and both products "will have to be competitively priced", he added.


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