A new method of weeding could save organic farmers a huge amount of labor.Two methods exist to control weeds on a farm or in a garden. The first is to treat the weeds with a chemical spray. Those who eschew chemicals, say, organic farmers, are often forced to kneel down, bend over, and pull them out by hand.
According to a recent article in Gizmag, an innovative method of environmentally benign weed control called “abrasive weeding,” is being tested by a team from the University of Illinois. The method involves “sand blasting” weeds with organic grit, shot out of an air compressor at supersonic speeds. The grit can be made of any organic material, such as nut shells, corn cobs, or any other form of farm waste. The grit can even be made of a dedicated organic fertilizer. So the abrasive weeding method kills weeds and fertilizes the legitimate plants all in one go.
Tests demonstrated that, while abrasive weeding caused “superficial damage” to tomato and pepper plants that were surrounded by weeds, it did not affect crop yield. The plants yielded just as much as plants where the surrounding soil was weeded by hand. They yielded 33 to 44 percent higher than control crops that were not weeded.
The tests were conducted by a rigged device that used a sand blaster connected to an air compressor with a walk-behind tractor. The University of Illinois team is currently developing and testing a dedicated abrasive weeding tool. There is currently no word on when such a tool will be available at your local garden store.