Gentle weed control for medicinal plants

Scientists at the University of Bonn are investigating how medicinal plants can be cultivated without herbicides and with as little soil damage as possible. Over the next three years, the project “Optimech” will receive around 1.1 million euros in funding from the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture and the Agency for Renewable Resources.

In the large-scale joint project “Optimech”, the Institutes for Renewable Resources INRES, together with the University of Bonn’s Agricultural Ecology and Organic Farming Departments, are combining mechanical concepts with modern weed control concepts. The experimental stands have been established, the weeds have been recorded and the first mechanical weed control devices have now been installed.

The main focus of the project is on significantly improving mechanical weed control for these sensitive plant species. “Medicinal plants and tea and spice plants are particularly difficult model plants,” says project leader Prof. Dr. Ralf Pude from INRES and the cluster of excellence PhenoRob.

On Campus Klein-Altendorf and the Wiesengut teaching and research station of the University of Bonn, weeds in medicinal plants and special crops are recorded and automatically evaluated using camera technology in drone overflight. Once these data have been collected, it will be investigated how the use of mechanical weed control devices can be optimized. In addition, the cluster of excellence PhenoRob will be a partner in research into how modern autonomous or digitally controlled control systems can be used for these purposes.

The researchers also want to investigate how mechanical weed control influences the water retention capacity and conversion processes of the important nutrient element nitrogen. The aim is for the soil to be able to absorb and retain as much water as possible. As far as nitrogen is concerned, on the other hand, losses caused by leaching into groundwater should be kept to a minimum.