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Technology could chip away at weed problem

Weed chipper (15)
UWA School of Engineering agricultural engineer Andrew Guzzomi said the ‘rapid response’ tyne system was designed to chip out weeds at densities of one plant per 10 square metres, while travelling at 10 kilometres per hour. Photo by Ryan Early, Reflected Image Productions.

A new mechanical weeding machine that is quickly attracting keen interest from grain growers will be one of the innovations discussed at coming grain industry events in Western Australia.

The prototype was developed by agricultural engineers and researchers from the University of Western Australia (UWA) and the University of Sydney, with Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) investment.

Those involved in its development will speak about the technology at GRDC Grains Research Updates in Mullewa and Perth. Fittingly, one of the themes of the Perth event is ‘innovation-applying grains research and development (R&D) on-farm’.

The machine has been designed using a cultivator bar where tynes are raised above the ground in a standby position, ready to chip the weeds out of the ground the moment they are detected with weed-sensing technology.

This simple yet groundbreaking technology will allow growers to control weeds in summer and winter fallows with greater flexibility for use in situations that restrict the use of herbicide application, such as wind, heat, surface temperature inversions and herbicide resistance.

“Its ability to handle a vast range of weeds, at varying growth stages, is likely to reduce the number of ‘passes’ required to manage fallow weeds, compared with current herbicide practices,” said UWA School of Engineering agricultural engineer Andrew Guzzomi.

“This will help to mitigate its slower travel speed and narrower coverage, when compared with spray equipment,” Dr Guzzomi said.

“Another benefit is that the mechanical weeding machine’s periodic tilling action, that is appropriate for use in low-density weed population situations, will allow it to be coupled to low horsepower tractors.”

Dr Guzzomi said the ‘rapid response’ tyne system was designed to chip out weeds at densities of one plant per 10 square metres, while travelling at 10 kilometres per hour.

University of Sydney director of weed research Michael Walsh said the machine had effectively killed summer and winter annual weeds that had been targeted in field testing, regardless of the growth stage of the weeds.

“It is highly effective on both broadleaf and grass weeds, and soil disturbance is potentially low,” Dr Walsh said.

“With a significantly reduced need for follow-up herbicide use, the system is an efficient tactic suitable for inclusion in an integrated weed management system.”

The efficacy of the technology relies on accurate weed detection, with optical detection systems incorporated into the six-metre prototype.

In a bid to allow the technology to be made commercially available to growers, the project is moving into commercialisation.

More information about the research will be presented by Dr Walsh at the GRDC Grains Research Update, Geraldton Zone, at Mullewa, on February 22 2019 and by Dr Guzzomi at the GRDC Grains Research Update, Perth, on February 25-26 2019.

Source: GRDC

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