Eco-friendly solution: steam could be the next breakthrough in fighting weeds

Reporter: Stephanie Byrne
Published: Updated:
Weeds near Lake Okeechobee

Research to tackle weeds among citrus groves is heating up.

University of Florida researchers like Dr. Ramdas Kanissery are trading chemical and mechanical weed control for something part of our everyday lives – water.

Dr. Kanissery is an assistant professor of weed science, UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Southwest Florida Research and Education Center, He says, “We found that when the plants, or the weeds when they’re exposed to high temperatures of steam, they get scorched.”

Just really hot water.

“So we had a boiler, and we invented, or we kind of designed a boom structure through which steam can be channeled and applied on the foliage,” Dr. Kanissery said.

Twelve to 24-hours later, you have dead weeds no longer competing with your citrus.

One of the advantages of using technology like this is it not only prevents chemicals from entering the ground, but also from entering our waterways.

“We’re also trying to see if we can apply this to ditch banks or irrigation canal banks to control the vegetation there and that way we don’t have to put chemicals on the banks, “Dr. Kanissery added, “…which ultimately is going to end up in our ditch water or drainage water, and things like that.”

While the research is targeting solutions for agriculture, the process has the potential to be scaled down for residential use in the future.

We could soon see this eco-friendly process move beyond the citrus grove.

UF researchers predict this steaming prototype will be ready for commercial growers use in about a year.

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