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Micro Electric Shocks Control Broadleaved and Grass Weeds

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-16, 01:15 authored by Daniel Bloomer, Kerry Harrington, Hossein Ghanizadeh, Trevor JamesTrevor James

A search for energy efficient, non-herbicide weed control methods led to development of a novel electrical weeding technology. This study focuses on weed control efficiency and energy as elements of a system that would include machine vision and robotics to control escape weeds in field crops. Two pulse generation systems, one single and one multiple, were developed and evaluated at different delivered voltages and energies. Greenhouse trials using specially designed and built application and recording technology showed the application of precisely applied micro-shocks with precisely controlled direct current (DC) voltage, pulse number, pulse length and period (hereafter PMS) can kill small Lolium multiflorum Lam., Chenopodium album L., Amaranthus powellii S. Wats. and Solanum nigrum L. plants with minimal energy. Plants took as much as two weeks to die. Increasing applied energy increased effectiveness as determined by plant biomass reduction and death rate. Grasses appear difficult to control once tillering has commenced, and high voltages may destroy leaf blades but not growing points. Broadleaved plants took several days to show evidence of chlorosis which preceded senescence and death. Our results showed that 5 J is sufficient energy to bring about death or severe growth limitation in many seedlings up to 15 cm height. This is as little as 1% of the energy of, and more effective than, ultra-low energy treatments reported in other recent research. To control five herbicide resistant weeds m-2, the required energy would be about 0.25 MJ ha-1 plus transport and actuation energy for weed destruction, as compared to an optimum target of about 20–40 MJ ha-1 including transport suggested in the literature. PMS can effectively control broadleaved weed seedlings and small non-tillering grasses at a fraction of the energy required by commercially available systems. This indicates PMS has potential as a viable technology for hand-held electric weeders or as part of a site-specific robotic weeding system.


This research was conducted as part of “Managing Herbicide Resistance”, funded by the New Zealand Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment Endeavour Fund C10X & C10X1806, a research programme by AgResearch, Ltd.


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© 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (

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