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Advanced Spy Gadgetry For Weeds

By Amanda Huber print email

I was flipping through the television channels recently and came across a James Bond movie. It was “Moonraker” from 1979. I have always liked James Bond movies, no matter who was playing the lead, for several reasons: he always looked good in a tuxedo; he drank martinis shaken, not stirred; he visited exotic locations and always had really neat gadgets provided by Q, whom you could call the prototype IT guy.

With all of the technology that we live with daily, it is really kind of funny to watch movies from 30 years ago to see what they considered to be super-advanced spy gadgetry. The car phone, the hidden cameras and minute recording devices are far more advanced than even movie people could envision and are widely available today. Right now, you can use your smartphone to start and stop your irrigation system or monitor its position.

Just today the Weed Science Society of America, the non-profit society that promotes research, education and Extension outreach activities related to weeds, sent out information on current research projects. One particularly innovative project underway in California involves a prototype cultivation device that uses “machine vision” to attack weeds growing in the crop row.
According to Steve Fennimore, Extension vegetable weed specialist with the University of California at Davis, a video camera mounted on the front of a specially designed cultivator captures images of the crop row and passes them to a computer for precise alignment. The blades of the cultivator can then pass down the row and precisely remove weeds without causing damage to the crop.

That sounds kind of James Bond-like. Who knows? Maybe one day, your tractor will contain a satellite-guided laser system to zap those herbicide-resistant pigweed – like playing the game “Asteroids” when we were kids. I won’t be surprised because what sounds far-fetched today may well become a reality tomorrow.

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