Jump start weed control with electricity

Weed control is a problem as old as agriculture itself, however researchers in California are using electricity to kill weeds in nut orchards.

Lynn Sosnowski is a Weed Sciences Assistant Professor at Cornell. She says this project has been years and thousands of dollars in the making, but the research was a team effort between multiple universities.

“Right, so Marcello Moretto at Oregon State University, Brad Hanson at UC Davis and I’m at Cornell. We were recently awarded an OREI,” said Sosnowski

OREI stands for Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative Grant. The group got $2 million to investigate the use of electricity against weeds.

“A proposal to investigate the use of electricity to control weeds and perennial cropping systems, and we’re all in the process of purchasing and evaluating a commercial unit out of South America to test its viability in our production systems here in the U.S.,” said Sosnowski.

She says the technology is actually quite simple.

“It basically kills the weeds just like you think it would. It’s a tractor mounted PTO-driven generator that generates a current. The weeds come into contact with the positive electrode and the current passes through the weeds to the negative electrode, and the flow of the current heats the water in the cells up they vaporize, and that causes the cells to burst and then the tissues die,” Sosnowski said.

She says it is proving to be an efficient non-chemical weed control device.

Experts say early detection and regular monitoring is recommended to tackle the problem before it gets too bad. They recommend growers survey their orchards after the first rains, in the fall, when winter annuals have germinated and start to emerge.


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