Organic Farmers Obliterate Weeds With Grit

Organic Farmers Obliterate Weeds With Grit

The idea began with Minnesota's bumper crop of backyard apricots in 2007. Along with the fruit came a glut of pits; the parts traditionally considered as “agricultural residue.” To Frank Forcella, however—a weed scientist and hobby grower stuck with his own pile of pits—there are no leftovers.

The USDA agronomist was sure he could find a use for the waste, and a few web searches revealed that fruit processors often grind up pits to use in sand blasters. This led to a less obvious question (though likely more obvious to a weed scientist): Can weeds be killed with a sand blaster?

“[The idea] sounded too silly initially,” Forcella says. But he and a colleague, Dean Peterson, at the USDA North Central Soil Conservation Research Laboratory in Morris, Minnesota, kept batting it around. “Eventually, we bought a cheapo sand blaster and started some simple experiments in a greenhouse.”

Their initial work involved growing weeds next to a corn plant; when the corn was about six inches tall and the weed was about one to three inches tall, the researchers blasted both with a split-second application of grit.

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