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Byron Shire
March 2, 2021

Non-toxic steam weeding trials begin

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Hans Lovejoy

Chemical-free weed control has come to the region and soon you may be seeing this chap steaming roadside weeds, carparks, playgrounds and estates around the Byron Shire.

It’s all thanks to an Aussie patent, which gives just the right heat to a spray nozzle to kill weeds. And remarkably the weeds are mostly eradicated after a second application.

Local property maintenance business operator Paul Sommers, from Garden Warriors, is the north coast licensee for Australian company WeedTechnics, and has partnered with Byron Shire Council to trial it on open spaces.

The new venture is called Steam Weeders, and his rounds will include Mullum’s new Tallowood Estate and various parks and playgrounds.

Sommers said he was compelled to look for alternatives to herbicide  use after public concern about their widespread use.

While the proliferation of herbicide use is a concern that mainstream media has largely ignored, it was the subject of a 2012 University of Leipzig study which found 100 per cent contamination of Monsanto’s glysophate in all urine samples tested. Additionally glysophate exposure in rats resulted in decreased testosterone levels, according to a 2011 paper published by the US National Center for Biotechnology Information (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov).

Redundant chemicals

‘It makes chemical use – especially around public places – almost redundant,’ says Sommers.

‘There’s no risk of litigation due to toxic spray drift, and it can be used in all weather conditions.

‘It also gives native plants a chance to grow after the weeds have been eradicated. It’s perfect for rehabilitating weed-infested waterways and organic farms as well.’

Council’s parks and gardens superintendent, Andy Erskine, is supportive of initial trials, saying applications last month at the Suffolk Park sports field carpark appeared to work well.

‘From initial observations, certain weed types such as flat and broadleaf, fit best under the applicator hood and are immediately burnt back.’

The robust invention all sits on a trailer – a diesel engine heats up a water boiler to 120ºC; that is attached to a specially designed ‘Steamwand’. The WeedTechnics website claims that, ‘for hydro-thermal weeding to be commercially viable, temperatures need to be greater than 98°C, and must have rapid transfer into the plant cells.’

Sommers enthuses, ‘Hybrid and fully electric vehicles incorporating the invention are being developed and some were on display at a recent trade show.’

And it’s also not the first time Byron has had the WeedTechnics technology available: in 2011 a local steam weeding business launched; however, the owner relocated to WA soon after.

But it is a first for Byron Council – the trial supports an ambitious resolution back in late November 2013 to be chemical free within five years.

Byron has now joined other councils in trialling chemical-free weed control, including Victorian councils of Maroondah, Yarra and Greater Dandenong.

Fremantle (WA) and Leichhardt (NSW) have such programs in place already.

To be included on the Register of Chemical Sensitive Residents and Organic Growers, visit www.byron.nsw.gov.au/register-of-chemical-sensitive-residents-and-organic-growers.

For FAQ on steam weeding, visit www.weedtechnics.com and to get your greens steamed, call Paul on 0431 331 810.

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