1987 - Volume #11, Issue #2, Page #02[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Electric bug zapper kills without chemicalsA Kansas City, Kan. firm has developed an electric bug zapper that kills bugs with short bursts of high voltage electricity without harming crops in any way.
Erich Sarapuu, president of Electrofrac Corporation, is an innovator who supplies the mining industry with electric rock busting machinery. He began looking at possibilities for his equipment in agriculture when he was contacted by a California farmer who had heard about the way he busts rocks with electricity. The farmer wanted Sarapuu to build a machine to break up dirt clods in the field with electricity. In the process of that project Sarapuu discovered the idea also works to kill bugs.
"There's a tremendous difference in conductivity between plants and bugs so if you submit growing crops to the correct level of electrical current, the bug will absorb the current and die while the plant is unaffected," says Sarapuu who plans to continue tests this season with a prototype developed last year. It consists of parallel metal plates that run down either side of the row. Electrical current at rates of between 10,000 and 70,000 volts, depending on the crop, runs between the plates at low amperage. This"blanket" of current envelopes the plant, instantly killing any bugs. In field tests last summer Sarapuu says the machine had a 100% kill rate.
"It requires a 5 to 10 KW generator. We figure a production machine could kill bugs at a cost of about $1 per acre," says Sarapuu, noting that the company is also testing the idea as a way to treat soil before planting. "We run electrodes through the soil and the electricity passing through them sterilizes the soil, killing harmful insects and even weed seeds before planting. This requires much higher levels of electricity. The Russians have had a similar 'soil cooking' machine in use for many years and the USDA tillage labs in Alabama are looking at the idea."
Sarapuu's main business is building huge crane-mounted machines that fracture rocks for mining companies. Using tremendous amounts of electricity, the machines bust up huge boulders or rock faces mine shafts. The machine grounds one side of the rock and runs electricity in through the other side. The current heats up the rock which causes it to expand and busts it up. He says you can demonstrate the technique on a smaller scale by inserting metal rods in either side of a rock and attaching welder electrodes. He notes that there may be potential for his rock-busting machine in a small version for breaking up rocks in farm fields.
For more information, contact FARM SHOW Followup, Electrofrac Corporation, 1215 W. 12th, Kansas City, Missouri 64101 (ph 816 474-4895).
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