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Not using herbicides is the holy grail of chemical-free farming and there’s a new option for NZ farmers and growers.
The Rootwave Pro electrothermal weeder is now available to hire from NZ company Hotgrass and is being commercially released worldwide this year. It uses a high voltage, low amp shot of electricity applied through a wand to rapidly heat a plant, boiling any water in the tissues from the leaves to the bottom of the roots.
A plant almost immediately goes limp and changes colour, dying within a couple of days. Testing has shown its effects reaching 23cm down to the end of California thistle roots. In the UK its creators have successfully tackled one of the ‘ worst case scenario’ pest plants, Japanese knotweed (known in NZ as Asiatic knotweed).
It works on grasses like kikuyu (using a t-bar instead of a wand to treat wider areas) and on some of the hardest weeds to kill including agapanthus, wandering jew, wild ginger, gorse, wilding pines and willow.
Hotgrass has also tested its effect on stumps where large woolly nightshade trees have been cut down. Zapping the cut stump stopped regrowth.
Current electricity-based products only kill the tops of plants, and steam types only penetrate to 1cm of soil depth.
The Rootwave Pro is only for lease at the moment for a minimum 3-month hire. There are plans for it to be distributed worldwide.
This weeder uses a high voltage, low amp blast from a wand to kill plants it touches
Kazel Cass of Hotgrass demonstrates the machine on weeds growing among grape seedlings at Riversun Nurseries in Gisborne.