A comprehensive guide to electrical weed management

The Biological Husbandry Unit (BHU) in New Zealand have recently published a new comprehensive guide to electrical weed management (EWM), written for farmers, growers and other land managers, as well as scientists and engineers working with EWM. Author Dr Charles Merfield said: “I think it has huge potential and could herald a true revolution in weed management.”

Electrical weeding field lab. Photo: Innovative Farmers
Electrical weeding in blackcurrants. Photo: Innovative Farmers

Electrical weed management (EWM) is starting the deliver the potential, and even more, as envisaged in the 2016 issue of the BHU Bulletin. This substantial and comprehensive guide aims to provide farmers, growers, other land managers e.g., urban areas as well as researchers a through grounding in EWM. EWM is a challenging technology as it is multidisciplinary and particularly as it crosses the disparate disciplines of botany and electrical engineering, so the guide traverses all of the different sub-disciplines within EWM. It also identifies and posits two sub-forms of EWM: (1) electrothermal that kills plant through heat, and (2) electrobiological that does not heat plants by any significant amount but appears to kill them through disrupting their physiology. Electrobiological while still ‘only’ a research concept offers the potential to kill weeds with the lowest possible energy use of any weed management technique. Electrothermal is already below the energy use of herbicides. The report also covers:

  • EWM in the context of integrated weed management and agroecology.
  • Its history.
  • An energy and electricity primer.
  • Mode of action.
  • Interactions with plant physiology and morphology and the key role of meristems.
  • Machine design and evolution.
  • Environmental conditions.
  • Current companies and their machines.
  • Impacts on soil biology.
  • A comparison with existing thermal weeding approaches and energy use by all forms of weed management.

Download the report as a PDF.

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