Electricity as an alternative to phyto products

Australian phytosanitary giant Nufarm is working with a German start-up to develop an electric-based topkilling system.

Potatoes as far as the eye can see. By the end of winter, perfect alignments will line the terrain with geometric shapes. But at the end of the summer, when the pulling season begins, the plots offer a slender face, the leaves of the potato plant are killed using phytosanitary products to stop the growth of the tuber and allow to collect only this one, with a minimum of waste.

But under the European Green Deal, the use of these defoliating products is increasingly limited and many barriers. By 2030, the use of pesticides, in particular, needs to be reduced by 50%. And the same goes for other phyto products, which allow plants to cure or cure. With the goal of moving towards an increasingly organic diet. For major producers of these products, it is therefore time to look for alternatives.

Nufarm is an Australian group active in the sector, which is among the top 10 in the world. Like its competitors, it must find replacement solutions to compensateexclusive ban on certain products in Europesuch as Diquat, a widely used herbicide for chemical topkilling of potato plants.




The tractor runs a generator whose electricity is transmitted to the plant through anode and catode brushes. High voltage electric current (up to 5500 volts) destroys the vascular system of the plant.

One solution is from electric topkill. This system is made up of German start-up crop.zone. Instead of carrying a chemical tank and a massive sprayer delivering it, the tractor feeds a generator whose electricity is transmitted to the plant through anode and cathode brushes. High voltage electric current (about 5,000 volts) destroys the vascular system of the plant.

“The system has been known for almost ten years, but crop.zone is making it better and better by adding spraying a liquid electrolyte that improves plant electrification. This electrical conductor, which melts the cuticle (the protective layer) of the plant, was developed in collaboration with Nufarm “, said Gilles Callens, sales accountant manager Benelux of Nufarm, who tests the solution in the Netherlands and Belgium., as part of Nucrop, the joint venture in crop.zone.

“The planting of potatoes is prevalent in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and northern France, noticeable. These are the key markets, where we can strengthen ourselves with this new technology, ”he added.

“Nucrop makes the technology even more efficient by adding a spray of a liquid electrolyte that improves the electrification of the plant.”

Gilles Callens

Sales Accountant Manager Benelux at Nufarm

For the farmer, top dressing is an important step before harvest. But he needs to go as fast as possible to better control the harvest time. Using traditional phyto products, the time required to completely kill the tops is usually 21 days and requires several sprays. “Current electric sweepers are limited to 12 m wide, compared to 30 meters for conventional sprayers. But this system generally only requires one pass instead of three or four and its efficiency is less dependent on the weather ”, said Herbrecht Muys, technical advisor Nufam Benelux. Crop.zone, which has raised more than 11 million euros, is currently working on a 24 m wide brush support.

By reducing the waiting time for complete loss of peaks, the farmer can harvest earlier or wait for a better potato maturity, to better control the caliber. “At a yield gain that could increase”, Muys further notes.

Some nuisance

Due to the gradual disappearance of herbicides in Europe, current alternatives are crushing, extraction or gas burning. “The first two are the simplest, but they can damage the plant and only allow you to work in small areas at a time. So they require multiple passes and longer working hours. Burning gas is currently non -existent. at the price ”, Muys pointed out. According to the system designers, nor does electrification harm the quality of potatoesor underground life, which is necessary for soil quality.

Last year, two machines were tested in the Netherlands and one in Belgium. These trials will continue again this year for marketing from 2023. “The technology will also be applicable to other types of preparatory work in the field. But because of the investment, and even if it improves the productivity of the culture, it nevertheless requires large areas to offer sufficient profitability ”, Gilles Callens further pointed out.

The summary

  • The gradual ban on agricultural herbicides in Europe is forcing producers of phytoproducts to recreate themselves.
  • Australian giant Nufarm is partnering with German start-up crop.zone to build a top-killing machine that powers the plant.
  • The technology is being tested primarily in Belgium, for marketing next year.

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