Microwaves for managing weeds

New microwave structure that enables efficient weed management and increases crop yield following soil treatment.

Problem

The main form of weed control is presently herbicides. The advent of genetically modified crops that are resistant to herbicides have further influenced the widespread use of herbicides. While the use of herbicides is the cheapest option for weed management in most farming systems, chemical resistant weed biotypes are evolving. This has resulted in a reduction of effectiveness and continual rise in cost in the use of herbicides for weed control.

In addition to the resistance of weeds, there are concerns that common herbicides are carcinogenic and negatively impacting the environment. Due to such concerns, there is beginning to be a shift away from the reliance on herbicides to other methods for weed control.

Proposed Solution

Researchers led by Dr Graham Brodie from the University of Melbourne's Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences,  have developed a structure that delivers microwaves to the surface of the soil more effectively for destroying weeds and weed seeds. In applying the same microwave energy density to the soil surface as the current method for microwave transmission (horn antenna), the new structure improves the total microwave energy performance by a factor of about 4 and 15, for soil and emerged plant treatment, respectively.

The resulting efficacy has brought the cost of using microwaves for weed control closer in line to the cost of using herbicides. Initial trials of microwave treatment of soil have further shown an increase to the yield of crops. The new structure offers an option for developing a commercially viable microwave weed killer for cropping systems.

Technology Status

The microwave structure has been shown to effectively manage weeds in small field trials. Further development is currently underway to demonstrate its efficacy for broad-acre fields, horticulture and irrigation channels. The technology is the subject of an Australian provisional patent application (AU2016905272).

Opportunity

The University of Melbourne is leading its commercialisation, and is seeking partners to accelerate the adoption of this technology through co-development, licensing or direct investment.

Contact:
Fabian Lim
The University of Melbourne, Technology Licensing Services  
T: +61 3 9035 6020
E: fabian.lim@unimelb.edu.au

Download the Microwaves for Managing Weeds flyer.