Grapevine Management Study

Over the course of this year, we were privileged to take part in demonstration trials funded by Wine Australia, evaluating alternative weed control measures undervine in vineyards compared to current practices.

Satusteam was applied using a Sumo (SW2800) travelling at 1km/hr, with two – three steam treatments 4 weeks apart.

Other alternative measures examined were acetic acid, pine oil, flame and mulch.

Unsurprisingly, our Satusteam treatment was one of the only options which didn’t impact soil chemistry in some way.  This is something we already knew from our own experience, and a recent study by Hort Innovation.

What was surprising, was the cost/hectare comparison chart. (all prices given are in Australian Dollars)

Now this of course doesn’t include the initial outlay of purchasing a Sumo set up.
But it does give us a great reference for how long it would take to recover the initial cost and reap savings, versus other treatment options.

Let’s say you’re currently treating a modest 10 hectares with pine oil, and your particular climate and weed species mean you’re treating three times per year. That’s $13,080 per year, versus the equivalent Satusteam running cost of $2610.  With a yearly saving of over $10,000 your Sumo set up could have paid itself off within a handful of years.  These savings of course magnify, the larger the area being treated.

We also had a really positive result in terms of the NVDI, a measure of how much live vegetation is present (the lower the better).
Repeatedly, straw mulch gave the best result.  And as every horticulturalist from any background knows, mulch is the penultimate solution to soil health and weed control.  However if we revisit the costing table above, we’ll see it’s also prohibitively expensive! Ouch!

So it was a pleasant surprise to see Satusteam coming second place, in two of three trial sites.

An added bonus, is that Satusteam and organic mulches supplement each other nicely.
Without solely relying on it to control weeds you can spread that mulch a little thinner, to still gain the soil health benefits but save some $, and any weeds that do push through can be instantly knocked back down with Satusteam – our treatment is depressurised right at the point of contact, so the mulch isn’t disturbed in any way.

Plus, any irrigation generated from the Satusteam treatment (nearly 400ml/second over approx 2.5sqm) is locked in by that mulch to provide maximum benefit to the crop.

What a win-win-win situation!

Thermal weeding gets up a head of steam

Citycare Property is steaming ahead with plans to reduce its use of herbicides by adopting thermal weeding.

As one of New Zealand’s leading providers of maintenance and facilities management services across New Zealand, Citycare Property’s contracts currently include a five-year contract to maintain and manage all community-owned buildings and parks in South Auckland, as well as a range of landscape, facilities management, graffiti and water contracts in Christchurch and all around the country.

Many of Citycare Property’s contracts include maintaining reserves, cemeteries, parks and playgrounds. As every home gardener knows, weeds are a constant battle, and it’s no different for Citycare. Our open space maintenance staff work to keep the weeds down while also keeping a keen eye on the environment.

Thermal weed control involves spraying weeds with a fine jet of water at 120 degrees Celsius. After just a few seconds the weeds change colour, start to die and a couple of days later the full effect of the treatment can be seen.

Read the full story… 

 

Report on New Weed Control Technologies

Hort Innovation, Australia’s representative body for their horticulture industry, have released a new report examining up and coming weed control technologies.

Benefits and drawbacks of each technology are noted, and each is rated out of 5 for Soil Wealth (impact on soil health, biology etc) and ICP (minimising risks to environment, crop, growers and reducing chemical use).

We’re thrilled to announce that our Satusteam technology topped the charts with full 5/5 ratings for both criteria!
The other technologies are well worth investigating as well, as there is no one-size-fits-all solution to reducing chemical use in horticulture.

Check out the other alternatives and full report HERE.

The Science Behind Thermal Weed Control

Well actually “YES IT DOES”, but there is a little more to it than it sounds.

Universally weeds are a hassle for farmers, gardeners, property owners and landscape managers. Hand digging and mulching is the ‘go to’ method I use in my own garden but this can be problematic for commercial crops and public open space. With the wealth of information now in the public domain about the health and environmental issues related to chemical herbicides for killing weeds, there is a major shift to adopting non-toxic weed control methods.

Steam weed control falls under “Thermal Weed Control” category on non-toxic methods. These can be classified into the following Hot Dry and Hot Wet categories.Thermal Weed Control Methods

Hot Dry includes controlling weed with infrared radiation, flame and hot air. They all use propane/ LPG as their heating source.  There are a number of small flame units available which are comparatively portable and are used by home owners, land-care groups and some cities.  There are also larger ones such as HOAF and Sunburst with ride on or tractor versions.
There are some obvious limitations of using a blast of open flame to cook weeds.  Dry leaf litter and grass easily catches alight and the flame melts rubber soft fall in playgrounds and rubber paving, and irrigation lines melt on contact.

My observational experience of using flame is that it doesn’t really penetrate the crown of the plants. It cooks off the top pretty effectively but regrowth from the crown is observed within a few days after treatment.  This leads to having to treat frequently.

Hot Dry Weed Control

Let me explain why this is the case. I remember when I was in science lab at high school and we had Bunsen burners alight. My classmates and I would see how slowly we could pass our fingers through the flame. Despite feeling the heat, we didn’t end up with any blisters.

That is because as we passed our fingers through the flame we were exposed to dry heat and dry heat doesn’t linger. Whilst the temperature of the flame was in the vicinity of 1300° C / 2400° F the heat transfer of hot air and flame is quite slow and air cools as soon as the flame or other radiant heat source moves on, or in the case of our fingers, they moved to cool air.

When using a flame to cook weeds, in order to get better penetration and a consequently longer die back, the flame must be held in place for a period of time long enough for the soil around the root to heat up.  The problem with this is that it increases the chance of fire and damage to the assets you are trying to protect by weeding. I have observed better results in early morning when dew is present or after rain.  For a start its safer, but I also reckon the water boiling on the leaves is retaining the heat for longer and transferring the heat into the leaves more efficiently.

Hand held and push type flaming and radiant heat apparatus can be useful because of their portability but they come with high risk of off target damage.

Of the hot dry methods available flame and radiant heat from ceramics or metal plates heated by flame are the most effective.

Hot Wet methods of weed control include steam, hot water, hot water and insulating foam and saturated steam and boiling water.

Some hot wet methods are regarded as having superior control over weeds than hot dry method.  The reason for this is easily explained by comparing the Bunsen burner at 1300 °C/ 2400 °F to almost boiling water at 95 °C/ 203 °F.  The devastating burns that occur when a cup of freshly brewed tea is spilt onto skin is a perfect example showing how the water transfers heat so effectively and intensifies the damage as it stays on the skin.  Hot oil is even more effective as it doesn’t evaporate and heats to higher temperatures than water. People that work in kitchens learn soon enough that the worst burns are the hot wet oil and water scolds, rather than the more localised burns from touching a hot dry pan or oven rack.

Hot wet methods of weed control enable more rapid transfer of lethal heat into cell structure of weed. In hot wet methods, deeper penetration into the crown of the plants is achieved.  This is where the meristematic cells that are the central growing point of many weeds are.  Most common soft wooded, annual and perennial weeds by their nature are plants that have migrated or been introduced from environments such as grasslands, prairies and open forests.  In their natural environment they are grazed upon by ruminants and occasionally exposed to fire.  They are adapted to growing back from the meristematic cells, the crown of the plant that sits at about or just below soil surface.  They draw on the stored energy of their roots to regenerate new stems, often multiple stems, and a new flush of leaf growth to start the process of replenishing their root system and stored energy. Hot Wet Weed Control

What makes hot wet methods so effective is that they are unlike any process that the weeds are adapted to. The heated fluid penetrates and damages the growing tips, delaying the usual rapid regeneration that is experienced with dry thermal or mechanical cutting methods.

Have you ever hand weeded a garden bed, thinking that you have left the soil weed free, job done, only to have a veritable vegetative carpet of seedling weeds appear after the first moisture?

That’s the seed bank being triggered to life by the warming of the soil, previously shaded from the sun by the weeds you removed, perhaps some exposure to light and certainly some available moisture. So, what I have seen time and time again in weeding with boiling water is that the combination of adding heat and water to the soil surface germinates some species in seed bank. Some species of seeds can’t tolerate the heat and are de-natured, they die and decay in the soil, whilst others love it, as it splits the hard seed coat and allows their first embryonic roots and shoots to emerge. Either way it’s a bonus.  It’s a bonus because we can now deplete the seed bank which means that we can control next year’s weeds this year.

Seed Bank Diagram

I won’t go into the environmental contamination and potential health effects caused by chemical methods of pre-emergent seed bank control, because seriously we can manage the seed bank with just water.  Really, really hot water!

 – Excerpt of an article written by Jeremy Winer

If you still have an itch to learn more, feel free to read Jeremy’s Holistic Vegetation Management Report.  This paper further explores methods of thermal weed control and cites scientific research into weed management practices from around the globe.

Holistic Vegetation Management Report

Does glyphosate increase production in farming systems?

I often hear that we won’t be able to feed the world without herbicide use and GM crops. On the other side of the equation, I hear that productivity of GM crops is no better now than before their introduction.  These charts may give some understanding to a complex set of factors.

This is a specific study of US agriculture. I stand to be corrected, here’s my interpretation.

Chart a. In 1992 8% of soybean was ‘Round up ready’ and treated with glyphosate to control weeds. By 2014, 95% was glyphosate treated.  In terms of acres, glyphosate coverage has increased from less than 5 million acres in 1992 to over 80 million in 2014.

Chart b. Soybean production can be affected by a range of climatic factors, pests and disease and as well as cultivar developments.  Chart b shows variability and I really can’t determine if the glyphosate had any effect.  What is does show is that the exponential increase in the use of glyphosate has not resulted in any proportionate increase in yield.

Chart c is interesting as it shows that the rate of application of glyphosate since 1992 has more than doubled, the number applications have increased from 1 to 1.6 and for a few years glyphosate was practically the only herbicide used.  Since 2008, as a percentage of herbicides used it has decreased, but this doesn’t mean less usage.

Chart d reinforces Chart c. Herbicide use since 1992 per acre has doubled and the number of herbicides being used in 2014 is within cooee of 1992, glyphosate is having less effect and herbicide resistant weeds are requiring additional types of chemical treatment to manage.

In summary for the Soybean records in US agriculture demonstrated in these graphs, GM round-up Ready Soybean has resulted in no fewer number of herbicides being used, a doubling the quantity per acre on 75 million more acres with perhaps a 20% increase in average yield.

In 1992 my eldest daughter was 2, in 2014 my youngest daughter was 16.  They do not know life without GM crops and glyphosate exposure in industrial food.  It remains to be seen the consequences of this exponential increase in glyphosate load has on my unborn grandchildren.  Personally, I can’t see the benefits in yield and necessity that the chemical and GM seed manufacturers would have us believe.

Thanks for reading,
Jeremy Winer.

Hi-Tech Aloe Vera

Take an in-depth look at how we helped Hi-tech Aloe Vera develop a holistic, sustainable weed management plan for their organic farm.

We cover the problems they were facing, the steam weeding set up we used, the plan we developed together and the impact that had on their business.

Background.

Hi-tech Aloe Vera is based in Bundaberg, QLD and, as you can probably guess, they specialise in growing Aloe Vera.

They had a problem with Kikuyu grass continuously growing over their weed mat at the base of their Aloe Vera plants. As they’re an organic farm they used whippersnipping and hand weeding to deal with the weeds, however, this was a costly process. Not only did they cause physical damage the Aloe Vera but it was very time consuming adding to the production costs, they’d have to go weeding with three employees every two weeks!

The Set Up.

Adrian, the owner of Hi-tech Aloe Vera, went all in and purchased the SW900. He used it to run two hand-held applicators or two 40cm Rowtech heads. He also bought the mini-skid and attached the SW900 to the front of his tractor using a fork setup.

He then set up the water tank in a trailer behind the tractor and, using a sureflow electric pump, transferred the water from the tank to the SW900 up front. Adrian created hydraulic arms to mount the Rowtech heads onto his tractor.

You can check out the set up below.

Organic Weed Control Set Up

The Treatment.

For the first treatment, Adrian went through with the handheld applicator heads and steamed the Kikuyu grass that was growing over the weed mat right up to the base of the Aloe Vera.

Steam Hand Application

That first treatment killed off a lot of the grass and then through subsequent treatments the Kikuyu receded all the way back to the grass strips where it first came from.

The rest of the treatments were done using the rowtech heads which reduced the labour from 3 people to 1.

They also got into the routine of running through the plantation every 3-4 weeks (depending on the time of year), doing this they were able to reach speeds of 3-4 km/hour increasing from the initial application speed of 0.5km/hour.

Rowtech Weed Control

Post Note: Hi-tech Aloe Vera changed its operations to import organically grown Aloe Vera from Mexico and the property was then sold. Hi Tech Aloe Vera became solely a manufacturer of Aloe Vera products.

Rowtech Tracking

 

EMRC Training Sessions

On Mid-April 2016 Jeremy Winer, in conjunction with EMRC, held 5 training sessions over 5 days to teach participants how to use the Steamwand Range. The training sessions were attended by close to 40 people who work with weeds in a variety of environments. As you’ll soon see, the training was a success. And as one of our participants put it:

“Good luck trying to use the Steamwand without training. Thorough and Necessary.”

Let’s dive into it shall we?

The Eastern Metropolitan Regional Council (EMRC) is a progressive and innovative regional local government authority working on behalf of six member councils located in Perth’s eastern suburbs. By partnering with member councils the EMRC facilitates strategies and actions for the benefit and sustainability of Perth’s Eastern Region.

The EMRC recently received two lots of Government grants from the Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPAW). One grant was for the purchase of a Steamwand SW700, the second was to put 40 member council operatives through the steam weeding training provided by Jeremy Winer.

EMRC also received another grant from the Western Australian Government’s State NRM Office to undertake an alternative weed management trial. The project, named Steaming to Success, will monitor, test and compare the Weedtechnics method of saturated steam and boiling water to other non-chemical weed management strategies.

The Training.

The training sessions were done over 5 days with groups of 6-8 participants each day. The training was also done across a number of locations around Perth to showcase the countless environments in which the Steamwand Range can be safely used. Some environments we visited include environmentally sensitive wetland and creekline areas, small bushland reserves, landscaped parks, gardens and verges.

Jeremy gave an in-depth introduction to the alternative methods of weed control and highlighted

  1. The numerous hidden costs associated with chemical management.
  2. The key steps involved in creating a chemical-free weed management program.
  3. Various strategies one can use to reduce weeding time and increase efficiency.

After this Jeremy covered the operations of the machine and gave everyone a chance to start up and shut it down assisted and unassisted.

After the training we conducted a participant survey, here are the overall results:

How clearly did Jeremy demonstrate the safe use of the machine?  

How clearly did Jeremy answer questions and address concerns? 

With the passage of time since training do you still feel confident to operate the machine without supervision?

What Now?

Do you want to organise training as well? Contact us.

Right now some of the municipal organisations are hiring the Steamwand SW700 from EMRC and the newly trained operators are implementing non-chemical weed management programs. They other EMRC trials will be underway with the start of the WA weed growing season. When we receive some more information about those results we’ll post them here.