A laser beam directed towards weeds can be an efficient weed control method as an alternative to herbicides. Lasers may deliver high-density energy to selected plant material, raising the temperature of the water in the plant cells and thereby stop or delay the growth. A commercial use of lasers for weed control, however, require a systematic investigation of the relationship between energy density and the biological effect on different weed species, growth stages, etc. This paper investigates the effect of laser treatment directed towards the apical meristems of selected weed species at the cotyledon stage. Experiments were carried out under controlled conditions, using pot-grown weeds. Two lasers and two spot sizes were tested and different energy doses were applied by varying the exposure time. The biological efficacy was examined on three different weed species: Stellaria media (common chickweed), Tripleurospermum inodorum (scentless mayweed) and Brassica napus (oilseed rape). The experiment showed that laser treatment of the apical meristems caused significant growth reduction and in some cases had lethal effects on the weed species. The biological efficacy of the laser control method was related to wavelength, exposure time, spot size and laser power. The efficacy also varied between the weed species. The results indicate that the efficacy of laser treatments can be improved by a more precise pointing of the laser beam towards the apical meristems and optimisation of the energy density (exposure time and spot size of the laser beam). The experiment also showed a significant difference between two wavelengths. In order to improve the performance and to validate the efficacy on a broader spectrum of weed species, further research and development is needed.
Biosystems Engineering, 2006, Vol 95, Issue 4, p. 497-505