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“Blaster” Kills Weeds With Corn Grit
Crop producers may eventually use a “grit blaster” to eliminate in-row weeds. Developed by USDA and university researchers, the sandblaster-like air-powered nozzles shoot corn grit at 6-in. tall plants, shredding young weeds in the row.
  “We were able to get 80 to 90 percent season long control with 2 treatments on young weeds,” says Frank Forcella, agronomist, USDA-ARS, Morris, Minn. “We initially tested it with cob grit, but organic farmers suggested corn gluten meal.”
  He notes that they were already testing corn gluten meal, with its 9 to 10 percent nitrogen, as a fertilizer source and for weed suppression. While Forcella didn’t see any weed suppression, the corn gluten worked to shred leaves.
  Forcella admits the prototype with its grit tank, compressor and sandblaster-type cones looks like a Rube Goldberg invention. Forcella started out using a handheld nozzle with a compressor and tank mounted on an ATV. With the help of a South Dakota State University engineering professor and a graduate student, the effort progressed to a 4-row system. It includes 8 nozzles, 2 large grit tanks and a large compressor.
  Two nozzles are aimed at each row, one on each side of the row. Powered by 100-psi air pressure, they lay down a cone-shaped pattern of 0.5-mm sized grit particles at a rate of about 300 lbs. per acre.
  The system is intended for use with between-row cultivators. Forcella says it works great to control annual weeds when used in corn at the 1 to 3-leaf stage and again at the 3 to 5-leaf stage.
  “It probably wouldn’t work on Canada thistle,” he says. “It doesn’t affect the corn plant when used up to the 6-in. stage because the growing point is still underground or protected by the stalk.”
  Forcella sees the greatest potential for the machine with organic growers initially. He notes that in most areas herbicides work well for corn growers. However, that may be changing as resistance by certain weeds grows.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Frank Forcella, USDA-ARS North Central Soil Conservation Research Laboratory, 803 Iowa Ave., Morris, Minn. 56267 (ph 320 589-3411 ext. 127; Frank.Forcella@ars.usda.gov).  

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2014 - Volume #38, Issue #5