Farmers Experiment with Microwaves

Farmers in Australia, facing a growing weed epidemic and finding conventional herbicides increasingly ineffective, are experimenting with microwaves as a tool to control weeds.

The growing use of chemical herbicides has proven to be a double-edged sword for farmers. While the chemicals initially offered farmers an efficient way to control weed populations, continued use of herbicides has led to the growth of resistant weed species.

In the United States, agribusiness giant Monsanto developed a strain of crops resistant to its Roundup herbicide, allowing farmers to use the herbicide after the crops begin to grow. However, widespread use of this chemical has led to the development of resistant weed species. Monsanto and other chemical giants have been pioneering stronger herbicides, including a controversial chemical with links to the Vietnam War defoliant Agent Orange.

Australian farmers, facing an uphill battle with weeds, are exploring non-chemical options to control invasive plant species. A group of Australian farmers is experimenting with microwaves as a weed-control tool. Microwave panels, emitting about twice the power of a kitchen microwave, attached to tractors are aimed at fields, shrivel weeds as the heat from the microwave emitters burst the plant’s cells.

While the use of microwaves is still in its infancy, it seems to be offering farmers a chemical-free alternative to weed control.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer