Video Clip: Backpack Flame Weeder 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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Jake Guest, Killdeer Farm. Norwich, VT.

Audio Text

My first experience, practical experience with flaming was with this little device here. The idea is that I can apply flame to a bed, I mean to, to anything, to a row what I do is I actually go over the rows that are planted just before the seeds come up. This thing is very useful for times when a crop is, for instance a crop that comes up much sooner than other crops, where there's just no point in going to get the tractor and putting the flamer on and doing the whole thing just for radishes or something, something that’s quick. So all the beds are prepared ahead of time and then I just take this flamer out just before the crop comes up and go along in the mark, and flame the mark made by the seeder, the seeder mark. It kills everything that’s germinated and the crop comes up just behind it. Sometimes it literally the crop is coming, it’s actually cracked the soil, when I flame it it’s literally hours before it emerges but when it comes up there’s no weeds left. The flame is very effective on weeds that are newly emerged, small weeds that are just emerged, it’s less effective when the weeds are a little bit bigger 2-3 inches tall or so, still works but sometimes you have to go a little slower and use more heat. It’s also not particularly effective on grasses unfortunately, because any grasses any weed that comes from deeper in the soil, it doesn’t get hit or can re-grow.

I’ve found the flatter the surface of the stale seed the better the flamer works. It’s really important, if there are any ridges or lumpy soil the weeds manage, the flamer deflects off the lumps of the ridges so I’ve experimented with different ways of preparing the bed and flat is important, that’s the way it works really well. I’ve found that grasses are a real problem; the problem is the growing tip of the grasses is slightly below the surface. The flamer goes over the top, kills what’s on top what’s visible and then a few days later the grass re-emerges. One way that I think I’ve dealt with the problem is to flame a little later where grass is a problem, for some reason at a later time grasses, the growing tip has come out of the soil and is vulnerable and I can hit it with the flame.

The ideal way to use this technique is to prepare the beds way ahead of time. Many weeks even, ahead of time. What I try to do is get an area all fertilized and ready to go and all the beds actually physically made then I start at one side and you know I have to plant some early crops early, I plant them and do whatever flaming I can and then flame ahead, I always flame a week or so ahead of the actual planting. For those beds which have been, which I’m not planning to plant for say 4 or 5 weeks I may actually go do a tillage with a rotovator a very light tillage with the rotovator before I even get to the flaming. And then they're part of the sequence. I actually have some fields where I make it a cycle and I start back at the beginning again, re-prepare the beds and start all over again.

Spinach is a crop for instance where I, every week I plant two beds and I always flame the week before and flame right after the planting and have flamed a couple weeks for the beds yet to be planted and tilled 4 weeks ahead of time.

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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