Feeds

Boffins develop microwave weed-zapper

Backyard Triffid exterminator could be yours in five years

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Reg readers frustrated by the never-ending presence of weeds in their veggie patches may find salvation in the next few years in the form of a microwave device that can pick out garden invaders and blast them into mulch.

The device is the brainchild of Australia's Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation , which runs a Weeds Research and Productivity Program. Dr Graeme Brodie from Melbourne University, who works on the program, has led a team that created a trailer on which four horn antennas are mounted. Those antennas beam out microwaves into the rows of dirt between crops.

When the beams – each of which emit two kilowatts of power, thanks to the presence of a generator – strike a plant for as little as one second Brodie says the effect is akin to placing an egg in a domestic microwave oven.

“The microwaves superheat the water inside the plant, which explodes the leaves and stem,” he says. “In our experiments that was always fatal, because it damages the mechanism that gets nutrients around the plant and if a plant can't process food it won't be very happy.”

Far happier are those who worry about the prevalence of pesticides, with such folk expected to be happy given the zappers' potential to keep fields tidy without the need for chemicals.

Brodie admits the prototype is currently a blunt instrument, as it is aimed at the rows of dirt between crops, a zone in which any plant is obviously not welcome. But he says the team is aware of technologies that can differentiate weeds from crops and hopes to enhance the system so it can detect and destroy only undesirables.

“We know there are already cameras on spray equipment that can recognise a weed in a fallow paddock,” Brodie says. “They detect green in among stubble.” Brodie imagines using similar technologies to detect a plant, zap it for the requisite second, then move on, all in a unit capable of being towed behind a tractor. Combined with better targeting, he hopes it will also become possible to look beyond inter-crop rows to aim at weeds closer to plants' bases.

There's even the prospect of a unit for home gardeners, as Brodie told The Reg his team is looking at commercialisation possibilities for a unit the size of a domestic lawn mower. While he thinks it will prove too hard to deliver a machine capable of differentiating grass from weeds, he said the microwaves also kill seeds, making the home unit a terrific way to prepare a veggie patch before planting. And also a mighty handy tool should Triffids invade.

Hopefully the killer plants will hold off for their assault for a while, as Brodie believes it will take three to five years to get such a machine into production. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
You can crunch it all you like, but the answer is NOT always in the data
Hear that, 'data journalists'? Our analytics prof holds forth
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.