back to article Nvidia: Pssst... farmers. Need to get some weeds whacked?

While there are always vehicles on the show floor at GTC17, it would seem this is the first time an actual John Deere tractor has been in the mix. But the tractor wasn’t the point, it’s what was attached to the tractor that might be interesting for rural types. Weeds are the bane of farmers as they cut down on crop yields. The …

  1. Anonymous Blowhard

    I, for one, welcome our mechanical, weed-exterminating overlords!

    1. Mephistro

      If this thing gets anywhere near my weed, I swear I'll beat the driver to a pulp !!!

  2. lglethal Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Assuming it works...

    Assuming it works thats a pretty good use of the tech. The farmer saves money because he only needs to use a fraction of the herbicide as previously, we get safer/fresher food, and the environment gets less chemical run-off. Win-win all round. Nice!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Assuming it works...

      Yes..... but give the weeds a few generations of mutations they will adapt to look like real crops and this machine will not be able to tell the difference. Once the weeds have sussed out how to do this we are all doomed.

      1. Kevin Johnston

        Re: Assuming it works...

        You seem to be assuming the farmer doesn't practise crop rotation. Not going to help much if you are a dead ringer for last year's crop

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: mutations will adapt to look like real crops

        Ba-ding !!!!!

        The same way that antibiotics encouraged resistant bacteria to evolve much faster than they would have normally.

        This is the bad side to capitalism ... the overwhelming greed, and inability to see a small %age loss of profit as an investment into the future against a much larger loss (when your crops are unsaleable because of imposter weeds).

        If we want to solve the food crisis of the planet we need to stop having so many children.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Re: mutations will adapt to look like real crops

          "If we want to solve the food crisis of the planet we need to stop having so many children."

          Flawed argument

          The areas that produce the most food per hectare of farmland, tend to have the lowest birthrates.

          Food distribution is your real issue.

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

        3. Toltec

          Re: mutations will adapt to look like real crops

          "The same way that antibiotics encouraged resistant bacteria to evolve much faster than they would have normally."

          It is the misuse of antibiotics that have caused the problem really, though I suppose if we didn't use them and just let people die the bacteria would not have needed to evolve so much so I suppose you are right on that count.

          1. lglethal Silver badge

            Re: mutations will adapt to look like real crops

            Weeds mutating to look like crops? Please if that was the case, then that would have happened a thousand years ago when people went by hand and pulled the weeds out. Hand picking is far less effective then spraying with weedkiller, so more weeds would have survived to pass on any mutations that developed. Did they? No.

            Silly argument...

            1. Notas Badoff

              Re: mutations will adapt to look like real crops

              @lglethal re: silly argument

              "Crop mimicry in weeds" pub 1983 in Economic Botany

              Vavilovian mimicry

              Just because you don't know about the boogie weeds doesn't mean they don't exist.

              1. LaeMing

                Re: mutations will adapt to look like real crops

                And eventually the weeds will be so indistinguishable from the crops that we can just eat them instead and not notice. Then we will need crop-killer chemicals/robots so stop them competing with the weeds!

                1. Pompous Git Silver badge

                  Re: mutations will adapt to look like real crops

                  "eventually the weeds will be so indistinguishable from the crops "
                  No "eventually" needed LaeMing. From the farmer's POV, a weed is a plant out of place. Worst weed of arable has to be the (volunteer) potato. One of the most common weeds in wheat is Fat Hen. The Iron Age bog man "Pete Marsh" was discovered to have eaten Fat Hen seeds some time before being garroted and cast into the peat bog where he was found.

        4. Anonymous Blowhard

          Re: mutations will adapt to look like real crops

          "If we want to solve the food crisis of the planet we need to stop having so many children."

          Is that what your wife says? Mine just says she has a headache...

      3. This post has been deleted by its author

      4. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Assuming it works...

        There are a number of food crops which were originally weeds that adapted to mimic desireable properties.

        If the weeds adapt and become useful, they're no longer weeds.

    2. hellwig

      Re: Assuming it works...

      Yeah, but you're forgetting one thing: Monsanto (or Bayer now, thanks Europe!)

      If you spray less weed killer, they're just going to make the weed killer AND the crops you spray it on more expensive. They gots to get paid!!!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Via deep learning ...

    Is there a BARF icon yet ?

    Shame on El Reg for letting this press puff piece past without comment.

    I have worked in IT for 30 years, with a particular interest in machine learning. Currently, there's nothing new - except the hype.

    1. lglethal Silver badge

      Re: Via deep learning ...

      You dont consider using machine learning combined with image processing in order to improve crop yields and reduce pesticide usage by actually combined technology with heavy machinery in the field to be worth reporting?

      Wow you must be fun at dinner parties...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not that new....

    pretty sure this was on Countryfile last year, but there are other ways:

  5. Alistair

    The element I like here;

    AND the one that shoots the Bayer/Monsanto conglomerate in the wallet is that it targets the "non crop plant" (I'll use that expression rather than "weed" since we've at least *one* toker in the thread) individually - thus negating the need for Monsanto's "RoundUp Ready" seed base. Given sufficient work, this will alleviate the 'lock in' that is occurring in certain crop lines in north america (at least). Personally I'm rather enjoying the work of a couple of local (small) farmers who are running heritage carrots and potatoes and a few other crops. (Purple! Carrots are *purple*)

    Sadly, Monsanto/Bayer toss around Nvidia's capitalization like small change, so I don't see this making the big time any time soon.

  6. Tom 7 Silver badge

    If you can spray between the weeds

    you could hoe too - that would save you having to reinvent the herbicide when the weeds develop resistance.

    1. Pompous Git Silver badge

      Re: If you can spray between the [weeds] crop plants

      Having spent a few hours thinking about this (on and off) it looks like a solution in search of a problem. Most herbicide use on farms is pre-emergent, or along fence-lines and such where you can't cultivate. If the crop is sensitive to the herbicide you are using, then you'll be using a shielded ULV sprayer.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: If you can spray between the [weeds] crop plants

        But the idea of most GM crops is to make them resistant to herbicide. Using this visual system means you can use mechanical weeding and plants dont develop a resistance to that. Despite what was written earlier in this articles comments in Canada in the 80s roundup tests showed that weeds developed resistance within 3 years. Weeds are not annual - many of them can put in several generations in the lifetime of the crop. We have lots of Japanese knotweed in hedgerows down here that has been sprayed and injected with roundup every year for the last ten years to my knowledge and is still there and spreading - thank god that stuff doesnt seem to set seed!

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: If you can spray between the weeds

      "you could hoe too"

      Does anyone else remember Tom Selleck chasing down an errant weeding robot in "Runaway" ?

  7. Dave Bell

    Nothing really new here.

    I was seeing this general sort of selective herbicide technology in the sixties. It wasn't just herbicides that affected weeds but not the crop, but for certain sorts of crop it was already to cultivate to kill weeds between the crop rows, and it was trivial to use the same control system for a herbicide spray. It was called band-spraying.

    I remember seeing ways of pulsing the spray on and off to hit non-crop plants at an early LAMMA show. I think that was when the show was at Lincoln, and that would put it in the last century, but I can't find the date when it moved to the Newark showground.

    One of the problems that might have been solved is how the whole system behaves. You need some way of producing a cloud of liquid particles, usually a mix of water (as carrier) and pesticide, that are the right size particles to stick to the plant, not bounce off, when they hit, and large enough not to be too easily affected by wind, or evaporate too rapidly. There may be adjuvants, such as wetting agents. And somehow with the rapidly varying flow, you need to keep the pressure right, if you're using a hydraulic nozzle.

    There are other ways of generating the droplets. with more control over droplet size, but I am not sure they can be used to aim the droplets.

    This is starting to look like somebody having a clever idea about image recognition, which is good, who know sweet F.A. about actual farming.

    We were in at the beginning of the Green Revolution, and I was coming home from school and doing things as routine that my teachers had been telling me were impossible.

    At least my teachers knew about crop rotations. They did get confused about Jethro Tull.

  8. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    Does it work on triffids?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Better be organic and invent a robot for that.

    A better way would be to have a robot (can be tiny) that pulls the weeds out. This way, no chemicals, organic produce, without the manual effort that is the prohibitive factor most of the time.

    Since they're small, they can charge themselves from solar, as the field gets direct sun.

    They just need to distinguish, change method for different weeds (some have deep roots that break easily when pulled), and let go of the weeds that grow too close to the plant (as it may disrupt its own roots)

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