- These tractors are equipped with torches and propane tanks and are used to kill weeds
- Bigyield.us, an agricultural organisation in Missouri, helps break down how the process works.
- “With the rise of organic farming, nonchemical weed control has become more popular, and so has flame weeding.”
The following is a transcript for the video:
Narrator: Don’t worry. This field isn’t being set on fire. It’s being prepared for a stronger growing season. How? What exactly is happening here?
David Yoder: Flame weeding is a process where we’re using propane to kill weeds.
Narrator: This is David Yoder. He works for Bigyield.us, an agricultural organisation in Missouri. It’s been controlling weeds using fire for about three years.
David: This is a process that they were doing I believe, in the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s.
Narrator: In fact, flames have been used to kill weeds since 1852. John A. Craig first patented a flame weeding machine for sugarcane fields. By the 1930s, oil and propane burners were being used extensively for weed control. Today, flame weeding is commonly used in corn and soybean crops. It can be used at the beginning of a new growing season or even after the crops have already been planted. The burners pass through the fields at about 5 to 7 mph. The flame isn’t meant to totally consume the weeds. The temperature just needs to be high enough to damage the cell structure so that photosynthesis can’t occur and the weeds can’t keep growing. The temperature can range between 500,000 to 1.2 million BTUs. A burner on an average stovetop only hovers around 12,000 BTUs. Flame weeding can be used on existing crops as long as they are knee-high.
David: One of the reasons this works really well is we’re not getting the growing point of the corn or soybean, but we are hitting the growing point of the weed. That’s the critical area that you need to be focusing your heat or your flame on.
Narrator: When herbicides became widely available in the ’60s, the flame weeding method waned.
[Commercial]: They sprayed us good, huh?
But I’ve gotta tell you, my roots hurt real bad.
Hank, whoever did this is gonna pay.
Hank, they’re gonna pay big, Hank, Hank!
Roundup. No root, no weed, no problem.
Narrator: But with the rise of organic farming, nonchemical weed control has become more popular, and so has flame weeding.
David: Now as the organic production is starting to ramp up again, we’re starting to see a lot more of this, and guys are searching for ways to control weeds and organic production.
Narrator: Bigyield.us usually flames its fields twice throughout the growing season.
David: Flame weeding is not an answer to all of your problems, especially on weed control. We still have to come back and do some mechanical cultivation, so we haven’t totally gone to a complete flaming process. But it’s something that, it eliminates a lot of those passes over the field.
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