Flame Weeding with Propane: How Organic Farmers Are Benefitting

tractor using propane to flame weed field

Weed management is a large part of a farmer’s job. Ensuring they get the highest yield out of their crop is critical for their livelihood and unkept weeds can lead to almost a 50% yield loss when not managed. There are different types of herbicides and solutions used to kill weeds, but these cannot be used by organic farmers. To be certified organic, crops must be grown free from pesticides, herbicides,  and chemical fertilizers. Flame weeding with propane is a beneficial way farmers can organically weed and avoid exposing their crop to chemical treatments.

What is Flame Weeding?

Flame weeding is an effective, organic farming technique that uses propane-fueled flames to eliminate weeds. By passing direct heat over plant tissues, the weeds will die off without the need of herbicides. Flame weeding typically involves a propane-fueled flame weeder which consists of torch ends and burners connected to a propane tank. There are many flame weeding systems commercially available, from small handheld systems used in residential gardens, to multi-row, tractor-pulled systems used on large farms.

How Does Flame Weeding Work?

Generally, to use a flame weeder as an organic weed abatement technique, simply pass the flame weeder over the plant tissues. This is done at a slow pace, about six to twelve inches from the weed itself. The goal is not to burn the weeds to a crisp, but to expose it to enough heat to break down the plant tissues. The flame, which can reach up to 2000 degrees, heats up the weed, rupturing the cell walls. This will vaporize the water and nutrients, eventually killing off the weed.

When applied twice in a growing season, propane weed flaming is 90% effective in killing off weeds.

What Are the Benefits of Flame Weeding?

There are many benefits to burning weeds with propane as opposed to using traditional weeding methods.

Organic Weed Abatement

The largest advantage is being able to avoid herbicides and pesticides in the field. This is beneficial to organic farmers because it eliminates the worry of chemical residues settling on crops, soil, water, and in the air. It also eliminates safety risks to people in surrounding areas by avoiding drift hazards from herbicides.

Reduces Labor

Flame weed control is low maintenance requiring minimal labor. Some small organic farms rely on manual labor to hand weed fields which can be time consuming and labor intensive. By eliminating weeds with heat, flame weeding can reduce costs and improve efficiency.

When comparing propane fueled flame weeding to mechanical weeding, organic farmers find other benefits too. Instead of using mechanical equipment to slice, chop, or uproot weeds, which can bring new weed seeds to surface, flame weeding with propane does not disturb soil structure, reducing the potential for soil erosion. Organic flame weeding is also less time intensive and can be used in a variety of weather and growth stages. It also allows farmers to get back to the field immediately after treatment.

Environmentally Friendly Weed Control

Lastly, using propane to fuel your weed abatement has environmental benefits. As we mention above, there are no chemicals involved. Propane is also non-toxic and will not contaminate soil. It produces less emissions than diesel or gasoline. Propane is an approved clean fuel under the Clean Fuels Act of 1990 and meets EPA regulations.

Other Considerations to Make When Flame Weeding

When deciding whether or when to flame weed, the growth stage of the crop must be considered. When flame weeding, annual weeds, or weeds that flower and die in one season, can be eliminated for good. Perennial weeds on the other hand may need a couple of flame-weeding treatments per growing season due to their roots that remain in the soil. By flame-weeding perennial weeds, one can eliminate the top part of the plant which will eventually cause the roots to stop producing new plants. Flame weeding typically works best on annual weeds that are 1-2 inches high.

Flame weeding is an environmentally friendly method to eliminate weeds and boost efficiency on the farm. Farmers are preserving their farm while also contributing to a cleaner environment when using a low carbon fuel like propane. Delta Liquid Energy is a Red Dragon distributor throughout the California central valley and can help farmers get started if they’ve never used flame weeding equipment in the past. For more information on how to start organically farming with propane, contact our district sales manager Greg Billington at gregb@deltaliquidenergy.com.

To learn more about our commercial and agriculture services, visit our commercial & agriculture page on our website.

 

Sources:

https://www.shipleyenergy.com/energy-101-guides/guide/2019/11/08/why-propane-flame-weeding-is-the-best-choice-for-small-farms#:~:text=With%20flame%20weeding%2C%20farmers%20can,many%20annual%20weeds%20for%20good.

https://cloudinary.propane.com/images/v1600273775/website-media/PropaneFueledFlameWeeding/PropaneFueledFlameWeeding.pdf

https://wssa.net/wssa/weed/croploss-2/

https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2012/03/22/organic-101-what-usda-organic-label-means