Equipment Companies, Not Herbicide Makers to Best Support Farmer Herbicide Management
By Shane Thomas, Upstream Ag Insights
In his Upstream Ag Insights - July 24th edition, Shane Thomas analyst says if we were to ever see products — like The Weed Seed Destroyer — become mainstream on combines, it could significantly help lower the tolerance for weed seed escapes in a specific area.
In his July 24, 2022 newsletter, he pointed to two earlier articles to illustrate his point.
The Weed Seed Destroyer is a combine bolt-on unit utilizing mild warming and intense LED rays to saturate weed seed as it passes with the chaff flow during harvest, and the seed-killing device is ready for spring cutting trials in Tennessee wheat and Ohio barley.
“Blue LED light is going to become a regular tool for weed control in farming,” says Jon Jackson, the innovator behind the Weed Seed Destroyer. This type of agriculture technology is developing faster than people know.
Keeping with the weed management topic, this is an interesting technology to help manage herbicide resistance and the weed seed bank in general. The Harrington Seed Destructor has similar capabilities in that it can eliminate weed escapes while harvesting. However, instead of obliterating the seed like the seed destructor, the “weed seed destroyer,” a tubed and augered system attached to the rear of a combine, warms and exposes seed to blue LED lights rendering them unable to germinate.
How well does it work?
It significantly decreased the average percent total germination for 4 weed species, morning glory, fox millet, common ragweed and pigweed. For seeds treated with directed energy for 4 sec, average total seed germination was reduced 97-99%.”
According to Lowell, the stationary unit displayed a high level of efficacy. “It killed close to 100% of weed seed—four different types. It seems to be seed-size dependent; maybe the bigger the seed, more exposure is required.
Interesting technology. The combine with tools bolted onto it will be a key part of strong herbicide/weed management. When I look at a company like John Deere, they are actually best positioned to support farmer herbicide management than traditional herbicide manufacturing companies because of the ability to integrate this type of technology into their equipment plus having smart spraying capabilities that are a part of their sprayer equipment. It’s interesting to think about from that specific frame and what this means for herbicide manufacturing companies.
Carbon Robotics, an agricultural robotics company, unveiled its 2022 LaserWeeder implement, an autonomous, laser weeding pull-behind robot that seamlessly attaches to the back of tractors.
In addition to an updated build, the 2022 LaserWeeder features 30 industrial CO2 lasers, more than 3X the lasers in Carbon Robotics’ self-driving Autonomous LaserWeeder, creating an average weeding capacity of two acres per hour.
Electric weeding is something we hear more and more about. Last week, Nufarm touched on some of the electric weeding capabilities from crop.zone, who they are partnering with.
The notable aspect about Carbon Robotics to me is the speed currently. They are focused on vegetables and higher value, lower acreage crops, but 2 acres per hour is still notably slow. A few weeks back I broke down the Aigen business based on their speed, which is relevant to consider within the confines of electric weeding as well.
ROI: Growers who use Carbon Robotics’ implements are seeing up to 80 percent savings in weed management costs, with a break-even period of 2-3 years.
It’s notable the number of technologies up and coming for weed management:
- electric weeding (above or crop.zone)
- mechanical autonomous weeding (Aigen)
- smart spraying (Blue River at John Deere)
- physical destruction (eHarrington Weed Destructor)
- LED seed exposure (seed destroyer referenced above)
- drone spraying (more precise applications Rantizo)
This doesn’t even count the new computing capabilities being used at major herbicide manufacturers to discover new active ingredients, cover cropping/intercropping (basic IPM) or coating capabilities (like ESN for granular herbicides) or up-regulating allelopathic capabilities of plants via genetic engineering.
The toolbox is growing for farmers to combat weeds and mange herbicide resistance. If the industry eventually does lose the ability to use glyphosate, it’s encouraging what technology is being developed to hopefully fill the gap.