Laser versus weeds: Reducing herbicides in plant production

NUBELA Unkraut Laser Demonstrator
23 October 2018

The LZH is working on a new approach to fight weeds in plant production. Instead of the indiscriminate use of herbicides, the scientists want to fight weeds physically: a laser shall "degrade" the sensitive growth center.

The aim of the new project of the LZH is to apply less herbicides to cultivated areas and to selectively remove the growth-inhibiting weeds by laser radiation. To this end, the Food and Farming Group is developing a demonstrator. The focus is on the development of a robust, field-compatible and safe laser system. Together with available sensor and vehicle systems, such a demonstrator shall optically detect surrounding weeds on the cultivated areas in the near future and precisely degrade the weed plants.

Fighting pests while protecting beneficial insects
The laser-based approach has several advantages: farmers need fewer herbicides, the plants cannot develop resistances to laser radiation, and there are no disadvantages for the weeds and beneficial insects on the areas that are useful from a biodiversity point of view. Thus, even without genetic engineering, the plant production of the future could be secured. The scientists want to bring the technology to market as quickly as possible.

The project "NUBELA" is funded by the German Federal Environmental Foundation (DBU) with a total of about 315,000 euros. In addition to the LZH, the companies LASER on demand in Burgdorf, Lower Saxony, and IPG Laser in Burbach, North Rhine-Westphalia, are involved in the project as cooperation partners.

For more information please read the press release of the DBU.