Flame Cultivation for Controlling Weeds

in HortScience

Flame “cultivation” for weed control was developed about 50 years ago. The practice was very popular with Southern cotton farmers through the 1950s and 1960s, but lost favor when petroleum prices rose drastically in the 1970s. There is now a new interest in the practice of flame cultivation as a partial or total replacement for herbicides in vegetable crops. This interest is fueled by three factors: 1) an increasingly negative public perception of herbicides on vegetables, 2) a very limited selection of herbicides labeled for vegetables, and 3) limited efficacy of some of the herbicides that are registered. Flame cultivation, in combination with mechanical cultivation, can replace or supplement herbicides in some vegetable crops. The mode of action of flame cultivation is the bursting of cell walls in the weeds as the weeds are heated by a carefully directed LP gas flame. With most vegetable crops, the crop plants must be protected in some manner. This can be done with a water shield (flat fan water spray), height differential between weeds and crop, physical shield, etc. Much of the early work on flame cultivation of vegetables was done with sweet corn. Work is now underway on flame cultivation of lima beans and southernpeas, where multiple flame cultivations have proven effective at controlling weeds for which no herbicide is available.

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