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New hope for killing weed seeds off the combine

Hi-Tech Farming: Researchers find that blue light and heat kill many weed seeds.

Tom J. Bechman, Midwest Crops Editor

May 8, 2024

3 Min Read
A young woman using a device to kill weed seeds
TAKE OUT WEEDS: Sarah Chu at Texas A&M University kills weed seeds with the Directed Energy Unit. Still in the lab today, will this technology be in the combine in the future? Phillip Chu

You can buy a device today to destroy weed seeds as you combine. There is one catch: It retails for around $80,000. So, researchers continue searching for other methods to control weeds before they ever get a start. Researchers at Texas A&M University are evaluating the effectiveness of a device that uses a unique method — blue light and heat — to kill weed seeds.

According to an organization of researchers called GROW, which stands for Getting Rid of Weeds, the device is called the Directed Energy Unit and was developed by Jon Jackson of Global Neighbor Inc. His work indicates that blue light combined with heat and midrange infrared wavelength light destroys many species of weed seed.

Researchers have considered using heat to kill weed seeds before. It works but only at very high temperatures. By introducing specific types and wavelengths of light, the Directed Energy Unit kills 83% of Palmer amaranth weed seeds with temperatures around 300 degrees F.

More refinement is needed before this technology makes it to a commercial combine. Visit

1st bioinsecticide within reach

Bioinsecticides may not be for just specialty crops in the future. Bayer signed an agreement with AlphaBio Control to secure the exclusive license for what would be the first bioinsecticide for field crops. In this case, the crops are oilseed rape and cereals. One of the main pests targeted will be coleoptera insects, including the cabbage stem flea beetle, which can ravage oilseed rape.

Bayer already distributes Flipper, a bioinsecticide for strawberries. It was also developed by AlphaBio, based in the United Kingdom. The target initial launch time for the first bioinsecticide for field crops is 2028. Visit

Biodegradable fertilizer coating

With biostimulants and microbial products grabbing headlines, here comes an innovation that could deliver these products successfully with commercial fertilizer. Pursell filed for a patent for biodegradable coating and application processes that could lead to a biodegradable product featuring a nutrient component and best-in-breed biostimulants and microbes in the same package.

Spokespersons say it will be a controlled-release product. This new coating could replace nonbiodegradable coatings used in many current products. Visit

Ceradis, WinField United cooperate

CeraMax from Ceradis Crop Protection B.V. is now an approved product in WinField United’s BioVerified designation program. CeraMax is a biological seed treatment that prevents soilborne diseases including rhizoctonia and the causal agent for sudden death syndrome in soybeans.

This product contains natamycin as its active ingredient, and is also approved for corn and wheat. It’s offered as an alternative to synthetic seed treatments. Visit

Planter box treatments

Quickshot from Helena Products Group is the next dual-purpose product for planter box treatment. Besides getting a compound that helps seed flow better, you get what spokespersons call “a full nutrient package.” Think of it as a product that does the job of talc or graphite but also delivers a nutrient punch, spokespersons note. Visit

Meanwhile, Talc USA, under the Brandt umbrella, introduces HomeLand, another innovative line of dry planter box products. This lineup, tailored specifically to either corn or soybeans, delivers nutrients and uses Brandt’s EnzUp technology to increase water and nutrient uptake. Visit

About the Author(s)

Tom J. Bechman

Midwest Crops Editor, Farm Progress

Tom J. Bechman became the Midwest Crops editor at Farm Progress in 2024 after serving as editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer for 23 years. He joined Farm Progress in 1981 as a field editor, first writing stories to help farmers adjust to a difficult harvest after a tough weather year. His goal today is the same — writing stories that help farmers adjust to a changing environment in a profitable manner.

Bechman knows about Indiana agriculture because he grew up on a small dairy farm and worked with young farmers as a vocational agriculture teacher and FFA advisor before joining Farm Progress. He works closely with Purdue University specialists, Indiana Farm Bureau and commodity groups to cover cutting-edge issues affecting farmers. He specializes in writing crop stories with a focus on obtaining the highest and most economical yields possible.

Tom and his wife, Carla, have four children: Allison, Ashley, Daniel and Kayla, plus eight grandchildren. They raise produce for the food pantry and house 4-H animals for the grandkids on their small acreage near Franklin, Ind.

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