Farmers will have new defenses against problem weeds this year, with more options to come as technology is fine-tuned. That’s good news because weeds are constantly evolving. Here are five innovative ways technology is helping in the fight against weeds. In addition, FMC is introducing two novel herbicide modes of action in the next decade. Read more about the herbicides at bit.ly/FMC-herbicides.
Killer Robots Stop Weeds Autonomously
While weeds occasionally dodge herbicides—can they avoid robots? University of Illinois researchers are using a USDA grant to find out. The scientists’ goal is to create autonomous, collaborative robots that weed fields with mechanical implements.
Experts from a variety of disciplines, including machine learning, weed science and environmental ecosystems, are working together to build a one-of-a-kind machine. A range of expertise is needed because weeds can look a lot like the crops they grow alongside, especially during seedling stages.
Machine learning helps address this issue. Experts apply principles that allow robots to acclimate to real-word uncertainties and differentiate between weeds and crops.
Helicopters Help Control Invasive Weeds
Necessity is the mother of invention; cattle producers are using helicopters to apply herbicides to control invasive weeds and put pastures back into production. The method allows access to acres tractors can’t reach and is most successful in 40-acre to 50-acre segments. Helicopter herbicide application also saves time and labor. Virginia offers grant funding for farmers who want to manage weeds with helicopters—check to see if your state also participates.
Farmers Might Be Able to Regain Glyphosate Efficacy
Researchers from Kansas State University recently discovered the pathway for glyphosate resistance in weeds is unstable. That means the resistance mechanism isn’t fully integrated into the plants’ DNA, so farmers have a chance to destroy resistant biotypes before the mechanism becomes permanent in the weeds’ DNA. To destroy resistant biotypes before they reproduce and become permanently resistant, researchers recommend best management practices such as rotating herbicides and crops.
Artificial Intelligence Helps With Identification
BASF’s scouting app, xarvio, lets farmers snap a picture of a plant to identify weeds and diseases. Thanks to artificial intelligence, as each picture is added, the system gets smarter. A remote server contains more than 150,000 weed and disease images in a massive database. When you take a picture, it quickly compares it to all other images to find a match, which is why adding more pictures increases the accuracy of the app.
Trait Starves Weeds But Cotton Thrives
Scientists with Texas A&M introduced a trait in cotton that allows the crop to thrive in soil enriched with phosphite, a fertilizer with one less oxygen atom than normal fertilizers. Because weeds don’t have the same trait, they die.
The gene, ptxD, allows phosphite absorption and is moving into field testing.