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Steel in the Field

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Agronomic Row Crops
    The Tools
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Horticultural Crops
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    The Farmers


Dryland Crops
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Steel in the Field: A Farmer’s Guide to Weed Management Tools

Bulletin

Agronomic Row Crops
Hot Tips for Flame Weeding

In-Field Tips
Once you’ve got the hardware, focus on hitting weeds early. Flaming can set back larger weeds, but zapping weeds as tiny seedlings or before they have three or four leaves is best. Killing small weeds, you will have more predictable success at field speeds and fuel use competitive with mechanical or herbicide passes. For guidelines, flaming experts say

 Don’t burn weeds. If weeds are toasted, you’re wasting fuel. Energy-efficient flaming will have little immediate visible effect but will cause weeds to droop and wilt within a few hours. You want to travel as fast as possible, using the lowest gas pressure (hence the least amount of fuel) that kills weeds.
 Timing is everything. In stale-seedbed flaming, growers cultivate the growing area to stimulate surface weed-seed germination, with weed flushes controlled one or more times to deplete weedy competitors. When weed pressure and planting schedules allow, delay the final broadcast flaming until just before transplanting vegetable crops or planting quick-germinating, direct-seeded crops. This gives the crop the least weed competition during its most vulnerable stage.
Early postemergence flaming works, too, for crops that send up early leaves before their growing point emerges. Even if the young leaves are singed, these crops will bounce back as long as the growing point survives. (See de Wilde) Once the growing point emerges, allow substantial growth before flaming stalks.
 Run when it’s hot and dry. Band flaming for between-the-row weeds—just like cultivating or rotary hoeing—is most effective at killing weeds in the heat of day with a gentle drying wind, not the cool dewy morning when it’s more comfortable for the driver or in the evening when visible flames make it more dramatic. The more you want a drink of lemonade, the more you need to be out flaming weeds.
 Adjust for accuracy. For flaming between rows of emerged crops, leave time for careful adjustment of burner height and angle (both vertical and horizontal), fuel pressure, tractor speed and regulator setting. Take time to carefully examine young crops for flame damage to stems buds or leaves. Quick test: firmly squeeze a plant leaf between thumb and forefinger. Let go. If you see a finger print where you squeezed, the heat has burst cell walls and the leaf will wither.
 End the fireworks. Yellowish flecks or bands within the flame indicate foreign material within the combustion zone or blockage at the burner. Carefully clean out nozzles each year to remove carbon and rust that can flake off the inside of the steel pipe that leads to the burners. A bluish center flame is desirable.
 Protect crops with water shield. Spraying a thin layer of water over the plants with flat-fan nozzles helps protect them from the flame’s heat. The sensitive plant parts of cotton, string beans and other crops can be protected with a wall of mist.
 Maximize the benefits of beneficials. Researchers notice that ladybird beetles survive higher temperatures than do tarnished plant bugs, a serious cotton pest. The beneficial beetle preys on the pests in both their larval and adult stages. Further, the tarnished plant bug appears at about the same time that cotton plants can first tolerate flaming.

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