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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 to ensure they get the most yield out of their crop. 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 organic farmers can eliminate weeds without exposing their crop to chemical treatments.

 

What is Flame Weeding?

Flame weeding is an effective technique using 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 Flame Weeding Works

To use a flame weeder, simply pass the flame over the plant tissues. The heat of the flame, which can reach up to 2000 degrees, heats up the plant, rupturing the plant cell walls. The goal is not to burn the weeds to a crisp, but to expose the plant to enough heat to break down the plant tissues. This will vaporize the water in the plant, eventually killing off the weed.

 

What Are the Benefits of Flame Weeding?

There are many benefits to flame weeding as opposed to using traditional weeding methods. 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.

This non-toxic, eco-friendly application is also 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.

Propane-fueled flame weeding also has benefits over mechanical weeding. Instead of mechanically cultivating land which can bring new weed seeds to surface, flame weeding does not disturb soil structure, reducing the potential for soil erosion.

 

What to Consider 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. By using the low carbon fuel of propane, farmers are preserving their farm while also contributing to a cleaner environment. Delta Liquid Energy is a Red Dragon distributor throughout the California central valley and can help farmers get started if they’ve never used flaming equipment in the past. For more information on how to get started, 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