Germany-based Laser Zentrum Hannover (LZH), a state-funded research group, has unveiled plans to produce a fully-automated laser weed killing system, capable of driving over a field, recognising weeds with on-board machine vision, and killing the offending plants with a laser. The goal of the project, supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG), is chemical-free weed control, which, according to the group, is a major goal of researchers into plant production.
The LZH states that the basic idea is similar to flame weeding, but without the draw-back of killing everything under the flame. A laser beam is precise, can be automated, and can be used to hit a sprouting weed without affecting the plants around the weed.
'The plant and laser experts have already carried out first feasibility studies concerning laser-assisted weeding,' explains Christian Marx from the LZH. 'The laser prevents the young weeds from growing, but the reasons for this effect are not yet fully understood.'
The next step for the LZH researchers is to develop a weed damage model, in which the effects of the laser beam (output, wavelength, energy, beam form) on different kinds of weeds will be investigated. Based on this information, a laser system will be set up, and the team will then develop a machine vision system. The project is set to run until the beginning of 2012.