Controlling weeds in organic crops through the use of flame weeders

Several recent developments have resulted in the need for a new examination of flaming as a nonchemical method of weed control. First, there has been an increase in the number of soybean producers growing organic soybeans for the edible soybean market. These producers need a method of weed control that does not rely on chemicals. Second, new technologies in burner design and the use of water shields have increased the efficiency and effectiveness of flame weeders in destroying weeds while at the same time decreasing the harmful effects of heat on the crop plant. Finally, there is a growing realization among crop producers that the ecology of chemical weed control systems lead to persistent hard-to-manage weeds which demand more chemicals or a change in crops or crop genetics. Flame weeding would retard the evolutionary trend toward chemically resistant weeds since no plant is immune to temperatures above the boiling point of water.

Our goal is to re-introduce flaming as a method of cultural weed control by working to enhance current systems with improved technology and by demonstrating field techniques and systems which make effective use of this procedure. The success of this project has the potential for introducing new systems of weed control in organic and conventional agricultural with subsequent reductions in the use of pesticides and herbicides.