Plant Cuttings

Extreme thermal weed control

Image: From the Synopsis of Histories by John Skylitzes, 12th century.
Image: From the Synopsis of Histories by John Skylitzes, 12th century.

Ever mindful that we ought to pursue environmentally friendlier methods where at all possible, I’ve been scouring the literature on your behalf. Well, a search for a ‘greener’ method of weed control may have ended with Anne Merete Rask’s recently defended University of Copenhagen (Denmark) PhD thesis entitled ‘Non-chemical weed control on hard surfaces: an investigation of long-term effects of thermal weed control methods’. Rather than use nasty chemicals, the research proposes that hot water/steam or heat should be used to ‘deal with’ those pesky plants (aka ‘weeds’) in hard-surface situations (i.e. not your typical arable setting). But you won’t get away with a single application: you need to apply the extreme temperature treatment up to six times in a season. So, go on, dust off that flamethrower and release the inner arsonical phytocidist that lurks within us all! And don’t stint on the treatment, either – mildly scalding or merely singing the plants might actually encourage regrowth of grass weeds. As is often the way with non-UK, European PhDs some of this work has already been published by Palle Kristoffersen et al.. And if you’re now inspired to read what is effectively the thesis’ introduction, check out a review of non-chemical control of weeds on hard surfaces by Rask and Larsen.

About the author

Nigel Chaffey

Nigel is a botanist and full-time academic at Bath Spa University (Bath, near Bristol, UK). As News Editor for the Annals of Botany he contributes the monthly Plant Cuttings column to that august international botanical organ. His main goal is to inform (hopefully, in an educational, and entertaining way...) about plants and plant-people interactions.

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