“Steam weeding is an environmentally friendly chemical free weed management solution to significantly reduce the amount of chemical herbicides entering the water catchments leading into the Great Barrier Reef.” www.bluehandsteam.com.au

 So…. Treeforce decided to trial steam weeding on our Freshwater Creek revegetation site in December, the lead up to the wet season and when our volunteers were having a well-earned Christmas break. Our coordinator first met the steam weeding unit along the Goomboora to the Rocks bike path in Redlynch where volunteers had previously planted over 6000 trees during 2015 16. Photo 1

 Guinea Grass is the main weed problem amongst our young trees as it tends to compete, outgrow and smother them. We agreed that because it was such a large site, the Guinea Grass would be targeted and the lower growing soft leaved weeds would be left as they did not pose such a threat.

The method was to carefully brush cut the Guinea Grass near our trees down to ground height, then followed up with the hooded steam head steaming the stubble. This was the immediate result….cooked! Photo 2

 The following is an excerpt from the Blue Hand Steam website and describes how steam weeding works.

“The system uses water super-heated under pressure in a diesel fired boiler that is pumped through a delivery hose to an innovative de-pressurising /restriction nozzle. The nozzle has the effect of maintaining the pressure in the boiler allowing super heating before depressurising and “exploding” the water into saturated steam and superheated water at atmospheric pressure.”….”Delivery temperatures range from 98°C to 110°, with a soil penetration of up to 5mm. The combination of saturated steam and boiling water creates a thermal shock that causes immediate cell wall and soft tissue destruction, the weeds then wilt and die off within 1-3 days.”

 After 3 repeat applications on the first half of the site it was observed that the Guinea Grass regrowth had been reduced and the long term results are inconclusive as yet. We are hopeful as steam weeding is safe for the environment, the public using the area, and the contractor. Dependent on project funding, trials are continuing into 2017.

Treeforce are very proud to say that we are one of the first tree planting groups in the Far North to trial steam weeding on our sites and that no herbicides entered Freshwater Creek from our bike path site during these current heavy rainfalls.

In 2016 Douglas Shire Council undertook a pilot programme, Mareeba Shire Council and Cassowary Coast Regional Council both purchased their own steam weeding units.