Microwaves for weed control

A laboratory model used to trial the effectiveness of microwave radiation in weed control.By Olivia McInnes

The ever increasing issues of weed resistance to chemical control have got farmers and scientists alike wondering where to go next.

Melbourne University’s Master of Agricultural Science, Dr Graham Brodie, may just have the answer the agricultural industry is looking for.

Dr Brodie said when microwave radiation is applied to a plant, it heats up the stem causing small steam bubbles to form. These steam bubbles block the plants nutrient and water transport passageways, causing it to wilt an die.

Dr Brodie has been working on technology designed to control weed problems on the ground using microwave energy.

“I started working on this idea in response to the need to avoid problems with chemicals and resistance” Dr Brodie said.

“There is also some interest in controlling weeds without the use of chemicals at all in environmentally sensitive areas, for example water reservoirs” he said.

Dr Brodie is currently working on converting the technology from a small scale laboratory model, to a miniature prototype that can be towed behind a tractor.

He says that although microwave radiation technology would be a less economical option when compared to chemical control, he is hoping to eventually incorporate it with weed seeker technology, increasing its cost effectiveness.

“Ideally, this new technology could be used as part of an integrated weed program to combat resistance and clean up paddocks for a fresh start” he said.

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