Hand-picking weeds and harmful herbicides may be a thing of the past thanks to technology that has made its way to Canada.
As both a farmer and mother, Margo Reeve of Okanagan Falls has always been cautious of the food she grows and provides to the community, which is why she jumped at the chance to meet a distributor for Steam ’N’ Weeds at the Pacific Agricultural Show in Abbotsford. The company is the Canadian distributor for Weedtechnics, which uses saturated steam “satusteam” technology.
“In farming there’s many obstacles… and with the weed situation, the more you fertilize, the more the weeds just love that,” said Reeve. “This is something we all deal with and I don’t want to (use herbicides and) put all of these chemicals into the earth (to kill the weeds).”
Reeve chooses to not use herbicides or pesticides on her crops and, as a result, previously relied on hand-picking weeds, a process that took hours and hours out of her day.
Her daughter, Kalene, was also interested in learning more about this steam technology, which was originally developed in Australia, and joined her mother at the agricultural show. It was from there the two decided to order their own weed steaming machine from Steam ’N’ Weeds so that Kalene could start her own business, Steam Out Weeds, and Margo could utilize her services.
“There’s a diesel burner on the machine and it brings the temperature (of the water) up to between 115 and 120 degrees. There are a bunch of different patented head attachments for different uses — like a small kind of shower head that you can use to get around perennials and not damage the other plants, and a big closed hood one that looks like a vacuum attachment,” said Kalene. “The technology turns the water into saturated steam and what it does is hits the weed and bursts all of the chlorophyll cells, so it sends it into a state of shock. Then it will just wither away and die.”
Margo added, “It’s a special technology, so it’s not just like being in your kitchen and boiling water to dump on weeds, but I know that also works.”
Kalene highlighted that because the technology has been specially-developed with patented interchangeable hose heads, it is very accurate in only killing unwanted weeds while not harming other plants.
Kalene said certain weeds will turn bright green as they’re being steamed, and then shortly after they turn black. She said the time it takes for the weeds to die depends on the specimen, but she’s seen it happen in a matter of minutes.
“There was one job we did in Victoria, after we did this huge garden bed because they wanted to wipe out everything, we went back and it was just disintegrating back into the soil,” said Kalene. “Which is great because then the fibre goes back into the soil.”
While Kalene operates Steam Out Weeds out of her home city Victoria, she intends to offer her services to residents in the South Okanagan over the summer when she and her partner return to re-steam her mother’s crops. She explained that while weeds will always continue to grow back, after an area has been steamed then it should remain weed-free for three weeks.
“It prevents the weed from developing seeds and the root structure is shot, so it won’t spread and it won’t come back. I mean we’ll always have weeds, but you can keep them controlled and then each year you’ll have less,” said Kalene.
Kalene explained that she is just getting started with this business but already sees further applications for this service, using the example of cities steaming weeds on public property rather than spraying harmful herbicides. Margo echoed her sentiment of seeing governments and business’ utilize this technology to “lead by example” since it is environmentally-friendly.
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