FINDING THE LIGHT. Jon Jackson, president of Global Neighbor, speaks at the 2023 National No-Tillage Conference about the company’s Weed Seed Destroyer, a combine-mounted technology that uses light to make weed seeds incapable of physical germination. The same light energy waves used at lower rates stimulate seed germination and development. Michaela Paukner/No-Till Farmer

Light Stimulation Boosts Seed Germination

Light-energy treatment developed to kill weed seeds without chemicals also stimulates seed germination.

What began as a method to control the spread of tumbleweed plants in the desert is now showing promise for stimulating agricultural crop seed germination to potentially increase crop yields.

Jon Jackson, president of Global Neighbor, an Ohio-based small business with deep roots in spectral physics research for chemical-free weed control, says his company developed technology for the U.S. Air Force to fight the spread of tumbleweeds on 22 million acres of Edwards Air Force Base in Kern County, Calif. The work, which required weed control without herbicides or disturbance of the desert floor, was funded through a Small Business Investment Research (SBIR) grant administered through the Department of Defense. 

“After news of the weed control success at Edwards circulated, we got a bag of marestail seed in the mail from an Iowa farmer and a note attached which read: ‘If you can kill tumbleweed seeds, you can kill the marestail seed in my soybeans. Merry Christmas!’” Jackson recalls. “We’re not farmers, and until then, we hadn’t considered agricultural applications for the technology.”

After conferring with many farmers, Global Neighbors began adapting the light-treatment technology to the tough, chemical-resistant weeds faced by the nation’s growers. In 2023, the company plans to run a demonstration combine equipped with an on-board light-treatment system to process weed seeds passing through the harvester on their way to the chaff spreader.

“We found light energy from the bluish-purple segments of the visible light spectrum, along with mid-range infrared rays, damages cells near the seed’s surface…

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Dan crummett 0618

Dan Crummett

Dan Crummett has more than 35 years in regional and national agricultural journalism including editing state farm magazines, web-based machinery reporting and has an interest in no-till and conservation tillage. He holds B.S. and M.S. degrees from Oklahoma State Univ.

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