Until recently, if you wanted to control weeds in fruit plantations or vineyards, your choices were either pesticides or attacking the weeds mechanically. In 2018, AgXtend, a subsidiary of CNH Industrial, launched its Xpower to market, which uses electricity to kill weeds. The manufacturer has now developed a narrower Xpower unit for use in rows, such as in fruit plantations and vineyards.
AgXtend introduced its first Xpower machine in 2018. The basic principle of the machine is to deliver a lethal dose of electricity to the plant above-ground and in the soil using stainless spring steel applicators that drag across the soil. The electricity needed for this is generated by the tractor, which drives a generator via the PTO. The concept is based on a closed electrical circuit: the high voltage electricity is generated locally by the mechanical energy of the tractor. The electric current passes into the plants and then into the soil through the electrode. The electrical circuit is closed via a second electrode that either touches other plants or the soil. The effect on the plants is comparable to a non-selective, systemic herbicide such as glyphosate.
After a first type with a full-field effect, called the Xpower XP300, the manufacturer has now also developed a machine that can weed the strips between vines or under fruit trees. This new machine is called the Xpower XPS-R. The XPS-R has a working width of 55 cm on either side, 25 cm fixed and 30 cm on movable arms. Extensions of 20 cm and 40 cm, respectively, can be used on either side if necessary. The distance between the rows in the plantation is 1.8 to 3 metres. The AgXtend Xpower XPS is mounted on a Hexagon 729 hydraulic chassis from Clemens GmbH & Co. For front mounting on the tractor, the components of the XPS-R can be mounted on a standard SB2 frame from CLEMENS GmbH & Co. In the event that there is a lot of dense development of monocotyledons or if a higher working speed is required, two additional high-voltage units, the XPS Power Boost, are optional.
The XPS-R has a sustainable effect against chemical weed control. The system is in fact residue-free. Insects or other forms of soil life are not affected by the treatment either. As the machine is not subject to legal restrictions, it can also be used along waterways. Compared to mechanical weed control, the Xpower XPS-R has the advantage of not stirring the soil, preventing the creation of a fresh seedbed for weeds or the stimulation to germination of weed seeds. In addition, there is also no risk of erosion.
The Xpower XPS-R works best on young weeds, with dicotyledons being more impacted by the treatment than monocots. In older weeds or areas with a lot of monocotyledons, the driving speed must be adjusted for effective treatment.
A few 0-series of the machine were built early 2020 for further extensive testing. The machine should be commercially available by the end of 2020.
Text: Antoon Vanderstraeten
This article was published in Farmers of Europe Magazine nbr. 1.