Weed control in organic soybeans and edible beans can prove challenging for growers who only have inter-row cultivation and scuffling in their weed management toolbox.

On this episode of The Sharp Edge, we learn how organic grower Phil Oegema and his family, who operate Oegema Grains Ltd. near St.Thomas, Ont., have put a charge into their weed control program to improve harvestability, and protect food grade premiums and yield.

The operation began to transition to organic production six years ago. Over time, Phil and his father, Tom Oegema, realized the need for a tool to clean up weeds missed by cultivation and scuffling. In this interview, Oegema tells Maizex agronomist Greg Stewart how they found an electrifying solution in The Weed Zapper, a machine produced by Old School Manufacturing located in Sedalia, Missouri.

“It’s been a phenomenal addition for weed control in both edibles and soybeans,” says Oegema. It’s essentially a high voltage bar in front of a tractor powered by a 155 kW generator which electrifies the bar with 13,00o volts.

When it drives over the field, the bar electrocutes any weed that reaches above the canopy. It turns the stem of the weed into a conductor and shoots electricity through the plant and basically boils the weed’s vascular system, Oegema explains. No nutrients can then move through the plant and it simply dries down and dies. (Story continues after the video.)

Multiple Weed Zapper field passes  — two for soybeans, three for edibles — are required for effective late-season weed control, but Oegema feels it’s a strong investment that saves premiums by reducing staining and improving harvestability. He also sees a significant yield impact by controlling big, competitive weeds that can reduce pod fill. He estimates that cleaning up dirty soybean fields can save 5 bu/ac or more and also provides a great option for pre-harvest weed control for organic growers.

Stewart notes that The Weed Zapper could also prove to be a valuable asset in conventionally grown, non-organic soybeans that require late-season weed control help. Oegema adds that the machine isn’t cheap, but there’s a quick return when the unit covers 500 to 800 acres annually.

There are also very few wear points on the machine. After purchase, the cost is essentially time and fuel, says Oegema, who credits it with enabling the operation to grow organic edible beans.

Click here for more episodes of The Sharp Edge.

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