Video Clip: Tractor-drawn 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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Jake Guest, Killdeer Farm. Norwich, VT.

Audio Text

There are actually four components to the flamer, there are the flame heads themselves, there’s the frame, there’s the tank and then there’s the regulating mechanisms. The regulator consists of a solenoid-activated valve, which simply turns the machine on or off. This tank, the tank is really important, it has to be, you can’t just use a regular propane tank that you see standing around greenhouses it has to be a motor fuel tank and they’re not too easy to locate. This is a used one we got pretty cheap, but new they cost about 700 dollars. You know, as you can see it holds about 40 gallons of fuel. I figure it takes about 19 or 20 dollars an acre worth of fuel. This device uses liquid propane as opposed to gas and that’s very significant because one of the difficulties that some of the European burners have is that using gas means that they get too cold from the evaporation of all the gas. These burners are much different - they move the propane in a liquid form all the way down to the burners before it's actually burned so that there’s no super-cooling of the lines. The expansion of the gas just before it burns all takes place right down at the bottom of the burners.

Each burner is a 250,000 BTU burner and that’s well its pretty arbitrary, what you need depends on the width of the bed. This seems to be sufficient for my uses, it covers a 52 inch bed quite nicely. Sometimes I use the burner for a single row crop in which case I don’t even use the outside two burners, the outside four burners, only use the two inside ones and tilt them so they direct the flame right down to a single row right down below there. So it’s very versatile there’s lots of different uses for it.

This is a good example of what the flamer does. On my left here is a bed, this bed here was prepared, these beds were prepared, the one on the right and the one on the left were prepared at the same time. They were tilled and rolled and marked, I used this roller you can see it just barely, there are marks, three rows are marked out, that’s to guide my planter when I plant out, I plant by hand with a push planter. And I flamed this bed about three days ago and it looked identical to this bed over here and as you can see there are hardly any weeds left, now there are new weeds emerging. What I’ll do now at this point is plant the crop in this bed and then wait a few days before this crop comes up and flame it again. That’s going to get any weeds that germinate between now and the time I flame, it also will get rid of these few little ones, you can't even see them, they're tiny little weeds that have germinated since I flamed it last time.

I think one of the few downsides to using this machine concerns safety. There’s a lot of energy in here and it has the potential for being pretty dangerous. I think that it’s especially important that all the valves are tight and the pins are all in and everything, if this thing dropped off or something broke it could be a real disaster.

I think the flame weeder has a real place in our operation here. There are some improvements and there are some techniques that I need to work on but I think it's not enough alone, but in conjunction with a proper and appropriate and timely tillage I think it’s indispensable, I find that I’m using it, finding more and more uses for it every year and I am certainly very encouraged by what I’ve discovered.

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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