New weed sprayer tech can save money and the environment

EAST CENTRAL — Using WEEDIt sprayers that only spray when it detects weeds can both save money and reduce impact on the environment.

This is according to the Carrot River Valley Watershed Association, who partnered with the Ministry of Agriculture to show off the technology on Aug. 16 at the Melfort Research Farm.

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“This WEEDIt sprayer basically uses an infrared camera to detect weeds,” said Hillary Luchinski, Watershed manager. “It only turns on the nozzles where it detects the weeds, so you can be travelling at regular speed and spot spray weeds instead of broadcasting.”

Luchinski said this results in saving a significant portion of chemical costs and has an environmental benefit because of it.

“The environmental benefit of technology like this is you’re reducing the amount of herbicide you’re spraying, which has two benefits,” she said. “One: it has public trust benefits. The general public is a little bit weary of how much herbicide and that sort of thing is put onto their food, so that is one benefit.”

In addition, Luchinski said, the producer doesn’t have to worry about drifting as much as with broadcast spraying.

Speaking at the demonstration on herbicide resistance was Kim Stonehouse, crops extension specialist with the Tisdale office of the Ministry of Agriculture.

“Herbicide resistance, what it is is a resistance that develops when we use the same groups of herbicides over extended periods of time,” Stonehouse said. “It’s not that the plant has changed, that in the initial population of plants that the herbicide can kill, there is always one… in a great number that will naturally be resistant to the herbicide.”

That plant will then grow up, produce seed that is resistant and spread it.

Stonehouse said while, like any herbicide applicator, the WEEDIt system doesn’t prevent herbicide resistance, it can be a significant cost saver when using much more expensive herbicides due to the resistance.

Karen Smith, Agriculture Program Specialist with the Tisdale office of the Ministry of Agriculture was also present to discuss funding opportunities through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership.

“If you’re looking for something directly related to WEEDIt, we do have our environmental suite of programming that includes the Farm Stewardship Program which lists a whole variety of beneficial management practices, but nothing directly related to WEEDIt,” Smith said.

She said the Farm Stewardship Program is one program intended to implement these beneficial management practices in the priority areas of water, climate change and biodiversity.

Smith recommends that producers who want more information on funding that’s available to contact the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 866-457-2377 or contact their local Ministry of Agriculture office.

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