'Weed Blaster' Technology a Boost Organic Farming
Fields test are expected to begin this summer of Star Wars sounding "weed blaster" technology that fires, concentrated organic grit from a high-pressure nozzle at mach 1 -- more than 760 mph -- to obliterate vulnerable weed seedlings. Early field tests of hand-held air compressors used in conjunction with traditional control methods reduced weed waste in vegetable plots by 67 to 97 percent, according to early results.
"It's another non-chemical, weed-management approach," said Sam Wortman, a researcher on the project and an Assistant Professor at U of I. "We're looking at some of the higher-value vegetable crops."
Wortman said field tests on hand-held models began in 2012 at greenhouses and on small vegetable plots. He said the automated model to be tested this summer requires only a tractor and an operator. Organic grit used to blast weed stems -- soybean meal, walnut shells, corncobs and green sand -- doubles as fertilizer.
Commercial use likely is years away, said Wortman. But he said refinements should continue to lower costs compared with traditional organic weed-control methods such as cover crops, bio-plastic, mulch and old-fashioned weeding by hand. Field tests also have reduced unintended damage to crops by targeting weeds at early growth stages of less than three inches...By Tim Landis, The (Springfield) State Journal-Register
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