News Tidbits: Till at Night to Reduce Weeds, Build a Solar Water Distiller, Composting Human Waste and More

Little tidbits of interesting news, including reducing weeds, distilling water, composting human waste and beta carotene in cucumbers.

| October/November 1995

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    Technician Keith Kohler wears night-vision scopes.
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    Dr. Buhler conducts a night-tillage experiment on an Iowa farm.
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    Principles of solar distillation.
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    Human waste doesn't have to be wasted.

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Cut Weed Problems in Half by Tilling at Night

If you're feeling restless some night and can't quite get to sleep, you might consider doing some tilling.

Research by Dr. Douglas Buhler of the National Tilth Laboratory, Agricultural Research Service, USDA, has shown that tilling fields in the dark can cut some weed problems almost in half. The experiment, now in its second year, involves a cooperative effort between two small farmers in Iowa and the researchers. So far this year's information is substantiating last year's find that tilling soil in the dark reduces the amount of weeds and in turn cuts the need for chemicals. When soil is tilled during the day, the sunlight activates the dormant weed seeds that have been exposed in the overturned soil. However, when soil is tilled at night, the darkness prevents the weed seeds from germinating. Dr. Buhler points out that this project might be difficult to develop on a large scale because it would involve altering work schedules during the busy growing and planting seasons.

However, this type of news might appeal to the unconventional small operator who wishes to grow as organically as possible. Weeds that are being studied include annual grass species like foxtail; small seeded broadleaf, like ragweed and pigweed; and large seeded broadleaf weeds, like velvetleaf and cocklebur. To date, small seeded broadleaf weeds are most substantially affected. Researchers are not sure how much light is too much, but reports are that even the light from a full moon may be enough to germinate the weed seeds. Studies in Europe are concentrating on which varieties of seed are more susceptible to light. While researchers concede that it is not practical to do all tilling at night, experimenters are working with several ideas including redesigning tilling equipment to exclude light and completely enclosing field rows with tents after they have been tilled.

—Kevin O'Keeffe  

How to Build a Solar Water Distiller

Another proof that the sun is an endless alternative energy resource comes in the form of solar distillation.

Dennis R. Lemon started his own company to help people contain the purification process of nature for individual use. It markets solar distillers under the brand name SunPure Drinking Water Systems.

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