A trial at Oxford Botanic Garden using electrical apparatus provided successful for weed control without leaving harmful residue. Engineering consultant Roger Balls and electrical engineer Dr Mike Diprose demonstrated success in initial trials on the rampant onion weed, Nothoscordum.
The method is environmentally friendly and leaves no harmful residues. A method using electricity has been practised for more than 100 years, but it has not become a widely established means of weed control possibly due to lack of suitable equipment.
As more chemicals are removed from regulated use, alternative herbicide control methods are required and Electrical weed-control could become a viable option. Mike Diprose, who runs Spectrum-tec, said “electrical weed-control involves the application of very high-voltage, short duration pulses or a high-voltage AC or DC current of 750V-3kV.”
How the weed-control equipment works
A portable transformer pack running off 240V mains power, in the 1kV and 3.5kV ranges was used. The plants were touched with a handheld, insulated lance for one-to-two seconds until they drooped or collapsed in a cloud of steam. the team need to establish whether the electricity breaks down the plant's apical dominance by which it sends up only one new stem if the main bulb is killed.
Operators would be licensed in the same way as sprayer operators. A tractor-mounted, field-sized electrocutor is being built for trails in the vegetable and fruit industry.