Video Clip: Flame Weeders from Vegetable Farmers and their Weed Control Machines


Vegetable Farmers and their Weed-Control Machines [DVD]. V. Grubinger and M.J. Else. 1996. University of Vermont Extension. Available for purchase at (verified 31 Dec 2008).

This is a Vegetable Farmers and their Weed Control Machines video clip.

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Steve and Ray Mong, Applefield Farm. Stow, MA.

Audio Text

I heard about flame weeding a couple years ago from a fellow farmer and I thought it sounded really intriguing, mainly because I love killing weeds, but also because it does a nice job in some problem areas that we have. Mostly I use it for stale seed beds, and on certain crops - carrots, beets, slow germinating crops. And the other purpose I’m trying and trying to develop the right tools to build the right tool to do the edges of plastic and the walkways in between rows of plastic, which is a very difficult area to cultivate, you can hoe it and hoe it and hoe it and you just keep on doing that all year long. It's working out pretty well although we have a pretty good crop of crabgrass and red purslane and it takes a lot of heat to kill it. The crabgrass especially comes right back. The tall broadleaf weeds are easily killed, pigweed, lambsquarters all those weeds are easily taken care of and just to alleviate those weeds for us has been a great help. Although I’d prefer if the crabgrass and the purslane didn’t go to seed this year - I’m going to have to do some hand weeding in there and hopefully in the future I’ll put my plastic where there is no crabgrass or purslane.

The two weeders I have are a tractor and tool bar mounted one which is used for the wide space in between the plastic, it gets the bulk of it in the walkway. And this is quite a bit hotter as I’m running a 100-pound can as you can see it’s a homemade tool. The other weeder is a backpack mounted one and my theory on that is to get up close to the edges of the plastic and it’s a fine line between burning plastic and killing weeds. But with the proper speed and the proper angle and the proper distance from the ground and the flame adjustment, it's effective, not on grasses but on those broad-leafed weeds we talked about. I’m burning only vapor, I’ve tried to get into the liquid burning, my local propane company got really scared when I talked about that, they tried to help us out a little bit, but once they realized what I was doing and saw this set-up, they took their tanks away, and they ahhhh..... So basically, if you’re going to burn liquid you’re on your own. They’d be happy to fill my vapor tanks anytime and sell me more fuel, but when you talk about liquid I believe you’re on your own because of the liability.

Another thing, this little backpack weeder is really handy for those little problem areas - it could be where your spacing was wrong on your transplanter or your cultivator sweeps just don’t quite hit the very center of the walkway. There’s an area like that here and you can just walk and just kill all those weeds without walking the rototiller or something slower or pulling them by hand - you can knock them down with this and you can get them basically anywhere on your farm as easily as you can throw on a backpack and take a walk it doesn’t take that long. You’ve gotta get the weeds when they’re small though like anything else.

My toolbar mounted flamer needs quite a bit of work, mainly it's not hot enough because I’m burning vapor. I’m extracting so much vapor at a time I get ice-ups and my flame cools down with time. And that’s the big thing I’ve gotta do maybe go to a bigger tank and maybe use some smaller burners and a gang. The other big change needed on my tool bar flame weeder is the ground clearance problem, once your crop gets big, this has to be, the fire has to be so close to the ground, I’m knocking blossoms off peppers and bending tomato plants, so I’m going to put a yoke toolbar and hopefully get a 250-300 gallon saddle tank and give it a shot for next year.

This video project was funded in part by the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (USDA).  

Published June 2, 2011

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