SoilMate’s Weekly News Digest #10
Killing weeds with a powerful laser
The EU-funded WeLASER project is developing an autonomous field robot that destroys weeds with a powerful laser. The project is looking to “develop a non-chemical solution for weed management based on pioneering technology.”
The robot will be equipped with artificial intelligence and intellectual vision and will be able to distinguish weeds from crops. Then it destroys the weeds with a powerful laser.
The project coordinator, Pablo González de Santos, said that an autonomous robot was nothing more than a mobile platform for moving weed-killing systems through crops. According to de Santos, the robot can be adapted to work with any culture. Initially, WeLASER will focus on sugar beet as well as wheat and maize.
Can crop vaccines secure us from global crop pandemics?
We will never forget 2020 as the year of the coronavirus pandemic, but less remembered is the global food crisis of 2007–08, which led to poverty, malnutrition, and economic and social unrest in 48 countries. The United Nations declared 2020 as the Year of Plant Health to draw attention to this problem.
According to the statistics, by 2050, the world population is expected to exceed 9 billion, and currently, 800 million people are undernourished. We can expect that food production will be further complicated by climate change and the loss of arable land. It has been estimated that 20 percent of the world’s crop is lost to plant diseases. Therefore, crop vaccines can help secure our global food supply, as new threats are constantly emerging. Preventing outbreaks of plant diseases is as urgent as having a rapid response strategy for human viruses.
How to make virus detection on grapes faster?
Wine production in Canada is $9 billion (CND), but for the country’s vineyards, it is estimated that contracting the grape virus reduces their reward share by about $23 million per year.
The problem stems from many factors, including slow testing methods, outdated policies, and the reality of wine growing in North America.
However, using the same tools used to detect COVID-19 variants can significantly reduce the viral load on grape growers. This single genomic-based test will replace more than 30 tests currently conducted on grapevines to detect diseases and stimulate the release of virus-free material from three years to one year or less.
Petroleum fuels and wildfires: two separate large-scale problems that can be solved with one scientific breakthrough
Teams from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories have collectively developed an optimized and efficient process for the conversion of tree plants such as forest cover and agricultural waste: material currently intentionally or unintentionally burned into liquid biofuels.
“According to a recent report, by 2050, there will be 38 million metric tons of dry woody biomass available each year, making it an exceptionally abundant carbon source for biofuel production,” said Carolina Barcelos, a senior process engineer at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts Process Development Unit.