Microwaves put heat on herbicide resistant weeds

Growave

Dr Brodie has spent the last five years developing a microwave antenna that allows the microwave energy to be delivered precisely and efficiently, keeping energy consumption to a minimum. Image: Ian Crick

The University of Melbourne is tackling herbicide resistance head-on thanks to the invention of a device by Faculty of Agriculture and Veterinary Sciences’ Doctor Graham Brodie that uses microwaves to kill weeds and treat soil.

Herbicide resistance means that a growing number of herbicides are becoming less effective in weed management and certain species of weed become more tolerant. In addition, with the increased regulatory requirements in herbicide registration and community concerns around chemicals, this technology provides a welcome additional tool in weed management.

Harnessing the power of microwaves to ‘zap’ and kill weeds has the potential to be an effective and more environmentally friendly means for farmers to protect their crops.

The microwaves work in a remarkably simple way; as the water molecules within the weed vibrate and heat up, they cause the plant cell walls to rupture, killing the weed without the need to use expensive or potentially harmful chemicals.

The technology will be commercialised by Growave Pty Ltd, following investment from IP Group and the Artesian/GRDC GrainInnovate Fund. The investment from IP Group is the first with the University of Melbourne, representing an important milestone in the landmark partnership between IP Group and the University to support the commercialisation of research. This is also one of the initial investment of the recently launched GrainInnovate fund, created to invest in startups with high potential to positively impact the Australian grains industry.

Dr Brodie has spent the last five years developing a microwave antenna that allows the microwave energy to be delivered precisely and efficiently, keeping energy consumption to a minimum.

“The modular design of the technology means Growave can be integrated into existing farming operations, not only reducing or eliminating the need for herbicides, but also saving labour associated with weed management,” said Dr Brodie.

“It can be mounted onto a tractor or trailer, and used in wet or windy weather, unlike herbicides and soil fumigation,” said Dr Brodie.

“As no chemicals are used, treated crops and fields do not require isolation.”

Dr Mike Molinari, Managing Director of IP Group Australia, said: “Growave is a great example of the world-leading technology that we invest in, and we’re excited to be working alongside the team from the University of Melbourne to significantly improve weed management and at the same time reduce the amount of chemical herbicide used on the farm.”

GRDC invested significantly in the initial research that enabled the development of Dr Brodie’s device and further invested in the deployment of the technology by investing in Growave via the GrainInnovate fund.

Dr Ken Young, GRDC Acting General Manager of Applied Research and Development said: “We see this as a significant additional tool for grain farmers especially in the current climate and we envisage significant improvements to weed management for our grain growers.”

Translation of Australian agricultural sciences and the commercialisation of this research is made possible with the support of local and global innovation funding. More on Pursuit.

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