A few weeks ago, I wrote an article in TurfPro on the merits of Integrated Pesticide Management and how we as turf professionals now have the opportunity to embrace a plethora of methods to control the presence of pest weeds and diseases.
In the article I talked of the many techniques now being used in the industry, and how at the recent IOG Saltex trade show I came across a new product from Ripagreen being sold by Kersten UK Ltd.
This new High Velocity Heating System designed by Ripagreen is described by the manufacturer as a quick, easy and efficient solution to controlling a wide range of weed problems.
I have since found out that a leading Midlands-based horticultural landscaping maintenance company, Hortech, has acquired a number of these lances and trained their staff to use them.
Hortech have been trialling non-herbicide weed control systems for at least the past 10 years. Most of the systems trialled use heat to destroy the green tissue of the plants and all have been exceptionally slow to use when compared to conventional herbicide treatments. In the main the systems are very cumbersome to move around, usually requiring the heat generating part of the system to be truck mounted, with the operator needing to stay in close proximity to the truck which limits the accessibility to areas that are some way from a road or track. Most of the systems trialled are also very expensive to initially purchase.
Like many companies Hortech are committed to integrated weed management, and part of this is reducing their reliance on convention herbicides. Particularly with the negative attention glyphosate is has received in the media, they have in the last 18 months, focused more on alternative weed control strategies. They have trialled, pelargonic acid, hot foam, electricity, steam, and weed brushes.
The new generation of professional thermic hot air blowers which Hortech are now trialiing, invented by Ripagreen, uses a process whereby high velocity hot air Is forced over the leaf of a plant.
This hot air instantly causes a thermal shock that breaks the chlorophyll producing part of the plant, meaning the process of photosynthesis is prevented. The plant then dries naturally with a visible result after a few hours.
To effectively weed with Ripagreen, it is not necessary to burn the plant, but only give it a ‘hot shot’ (about 80 ° in the thickness of the leaf). The action is immediate, bringing a saving of time and consequent energy.
The ;reserves’ in its roots of the plant will determine how effective the treatment is. This treatment is therefore more effective on plants at seedling / young shoot stage. With a regular frequency of passage, the plant will be weakened until it is exhausted.
When Hortec trialled the Ripagreen thermal lance, they say they were impressed with the portability and flexibility of the equipment. The team cited how compact the equipment is and how it fitted comfortably to the operator, affording a freedom of movement. The lance was tested over a variety of terrains, with the weight of the gas bottle and lance well balanced. Hortech say the operator was able to move around freely, not being restricted by pipes or hoses attached to a large vehicle mounted heat source.
The time taken to effectively treat weeds varied depending on the weeds structure. Succulent weeds collapsed quickly, more woody type weeds are more resistant to the heat. It has quite a noticeable effect on grass and moss, which quickly changes colour. How lasting the control is will depend on the time of the season the weeds are treated.
The company say they were so impressed with the thermal lance, they decided to purchase one, which I’ve been told is the first unit purchased in the UK.
Their supplier Kersten UK Ltd delivered the unit to their head office in Stone Staffordshire, complete with a training package for six people. Kersten delivered the training and issued training certificates for all staff that completed the course. Ryan Shepherd who is head of the Hortech training department will now be writing a training module for the equipment, which will be delivered to any Hortech staff prior to use.
Hortech are in the process of approaching a number of clients to arrange site trials of the equipment, to demonstrate that weeds can be controlled effectively in specific situations using an integrated approach without the need to apply herbicides.
On completion of the trials a full report will be available and I have had an invite to come and try out the innovation in the new year and report on the findings of their trials.