Recently, I learned about a really effective way to get rid of weeds that peek out from sidewalk cracks: blowtorches. This is old news to most gardeners; using direct fire at the base of weeds has been an alternative to herbicides for decades.
Looking for alternatives to herbicides is one reason that scientists at Leibniz University in Hanover, Germany, to come up with an even more badass method: lasers. Their method could reduce invasive weed species, while reducing the damage herbicides can do to soil and farmland.
Using a greenhouse for their experiment, the scientist set up a contraption that has cameras and a laser set up on an overhead rail. The cameras image the plants and uses software to distinguish plants from weeds. Once the weeds are found, a CO2 laser hits them at their weakest point, which varies by species. Currently, the laser can treat an area of weed growth about a square meter in size. Larger versions of the green house will grow (forgive the pun) from this example.
As awesome as this seems, it does require a little finesse. The power of the lasers has to be just right. If it’s too weak, weeds can grow, rather than die out. Using the lasers on large parcels of land could require robots or airborne drones. But either way, gardening and farming is about to get a lot more technical.
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