Wheel sprayer guarantees accurate application of weed-killer


By Nico Van Burick | 24 August 2017
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The first prototype. The three wheels were too awkward to use on slopes. Photo: Supplied.

This farming enterprise has eradicated back-breaking weeding by using a wheel sprayer and back-pack that applies the herbicide directly onto the weeds – at the same time ensuring that the weed-killer doesn’t end up on their avocado trees.

At the Allesbeste Farming enterprise outside Tzaneen in the Limpopo province of South Africa, they have developed an ingenious way to combat weeds in their avocado orchards without running the risk of herbicide landing on the trees.

The Ernst family, South African leaders in the field of avocado pear research and development, also have the honour of being nominated the 2017 Farmer of the Year by the Agricultural Writers of SA.

Lourens Jooste, project manager of this farming enterprise, says they used to battle to combat the weeds growing in the furrows in the orchards because they couldn’t simply spray them with a weed-killer. “There’s a huge risk of the weed-killer ending up on the micro clones and killing them too.”

SAFE PATH FOR THE HERBICIDE

Initially, weeds were pulled out by hand and one worker could only cover one-and-a-half rows of about 90m per day.

“The eventual solution was a 16 litre back-pack with a handle and sprayer that drips the liquid directly onto a wheel for direct application onto the weeds without the spray being blown around.”

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Fanie Muteta, a worker at Allesbeste Farming enterprise, demonstrates the weed-killer implement with which the poison is applied via the wheel.

At the heart of this solution is a locally manufactured herbicide sprayer that cost R300 that one can easily carry on your back, along with a pump, handle and pole where the sprayer at the end has been replaced with a dripper. Lourens calls it the “little mamba”.

He says that after they came up with the idea of the wheel, he soon drew a sketch of his plan. With the assistance of the local Engelbrecht Engineering Works, they developed and built the weed-killer frame with a wheel, and then tested it in the orchards.

“It was the only type of wheel we could find in Tzaneen. The wheel is 20cm in diameter and is just about right, but it is only 4cm wide. We would like to look at a wider tyre. The weed-killer also has a drop of about 4cm to the tyre and we also want to reduce that.”

He says that one worker with a full tank of weed-killer can treat about 5 rows of 90m.

NEW DEVELOPMENTS 

“Previously we experimented with another device, a tank mounted on three wheels, but this was too difficult to handle in the orchards and up the slopes. With the back-pack mounting, women can also do weed control.”

Lourens says that the next step would be to develop something with a larger surface area, such as an instant coffee tin, to use as a roller along with a couple of drippers that can keep the rolling surface wet.

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The weed-killer drips onto the wheel and in this manner is applied on the weeds so that spray does not land up on the trees.

“Then one would also have the advantage that mud would not cling as is sometimes the case now with the rubber wheels. We are still thinking about ideas we can try out and anyone is welcome to come forward with ideas and suggestions!”

ENQUIRIES: Lourens Jooste, email: lourens@allesbeste.com