Smart Weed Control with Hot Water

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The rotating hot-water jet brings the water to the root

Controlling broad-leaved dock with hot water and a rotary nozzle  

Broad-leaved dock (Rumex obtusifolius) is an interloper on many pastures and meadows. With its large leaves, this weed crowds out the more nutritious fodder plants, leading to losses in forage quality and yield.

Agroscope has developed a novel method of herbicide-free dock-leaf control using hot water. The top 10–15 cm of the root area is bared by the jet from a hot-water nozzle whilst being heated to over 70 degrees C. This kills the dock plants and simultaneously reduces the germinability of the dock seeds lying dormant in the soil in the immediate vicinity. The method is marketed by Bachmann AG in Bütschwil as a manually inserted wand nozzle. In a further step, Agroscope is conducting joint research with partners on automation, using an autonomous vehicle. Supported by GPS, the vehicle will systematically cover the meadow, identifying dock plants and targeting them with the hot-water nozzle. A first prototype of the vehicle has been built, and the current focus of research is the recognition of dock plants via a camera and digital image analysis, supported by machine learning.

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‘Broad-leaved dock’ dossier in Schweizer Bauer, issue of 1June 2013

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