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SIUC tests electricity to control weeds

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CARBONDALE (WSIL) -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale is partnering with the University of Missouri on a special project. The collaboration is an effort to establish an effective way to control weeds. The partnership is testing the use of electricity to control weeds in crop fields, specifically soy beans.

"This is my graduate research project. We are working with an implement called The Weed Zapper it is a form of electric weed control," explains Jake Vaughn, Research Specialist at the University of Missouri.

Vaughn began working on the project at the beginning of summer. "Basically what happens is, there is a generator mounted to the back of the tractor and then a large wire runs from the front of the tractor to the back of the tractor where there's a copper boom. Anything that comes into contact with that copper boom is electrocuted."

The trick is zapping the weeds and not the soy beans.

"It would really come down to a soybean height issue, the soy bean canopy. The weeds have to be above the soy bean canopy because you have to set the electrodes at the canopy height. You don't want to electrocute the soybeans. You just want to control the weeds that are emerging from the soybean canopy," adds Karla Gage, Associate Professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Gage says more traditional weed control is becoming problematic for farmers.

"There's a lot of issues with herbicide resistance in cropping systems, in Illinois. So, because of that we've lost a lot of the more common tools that we can use to control weeds. So, because we're losing herbicide ethicacy, we need to come up with alternative methods of control. This is one non chemical option that can be used to control weeds."

Research with the weed zapper originally began in Missouri in 2020. The multistate project is funded by the North Central Soybean Research Program with support from the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council.

The Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council purchased the implement. SIU researchers are also investigating harvest weed seed control. A method where weed seeds are managed or destroyed before going back into the soil.

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