Today’s Solutions: May 22, 2022

Spraying weed killer near your prized plants can be tricky, but picture this: a weed, sucking up valuable sun and nutrients — but suddenly, a shadow passes above, and deep within the plant pest, tiny, violent vibrations begin. The molecules shake, the water inside warms and expands, until its cell walls come down like Jericho — and the weed is destroyed.

Dr. Graham Brodie of the University of Melbourne is working on a method that could make this very satisfying fantasy come true: a device for zapping the stubborn plants with microwaves. The electromagnetic fields created by microwaves heat the water particles within a weed, causing vibrations to happen within the plant cell walls and ultimately, causing the weed to die. The microwaves can also destroy dormant seeds, using higher energy to push underground and essentially cooking them before they can germinate.

While being super useful in the garden, such a device could be extremely helpful in quelling the rise of herbicide resistance, in which weeds and other bacterias become immune to antibiotics, eventually causing them to morph into “superbugs”. With this weed-zapping device, we might finally have a non-chemical means of killing plant pests that keep becoming more resistant.

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