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Development of Innovative Propane Flame Weeding Equipment

Christopher A Bruening, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Building on an existing hood design, a 4-row flame weeder was developed for flaming in row crops like corn and soybean. Flame weeding is a thermal weed control method first researched over 100 years ago. It is a non-chemical method and has potential applications in a wide range of areas from vegetable production to urban weed control. The steps in developing the 4-row unit were: scaling up the hood design, designing a compatible torch and torch mount, developing an electronic ignition system, and finally, integrating all of the components into a complete 4-row flamer. Design challenges included developing an unobtrusive hood assembly support system that profiled the soil surface, achieving complete vaporization of the liquid fuel, balancing flame stability and housing temperatures, and selecting a sensor for flame detection that was robust enough for harsh field environments while still providing quick response time. On-farm testing was conducted throughout the design iterations of the 4-row unit, and a fully randomized field study was conducted over two years, 2010 and 2011, to test full season weed control performance. The 4-row unit was setup for full-flaming (FF) treatments where 100% of the crop row was flame treated and no other weed control method was used. The field study was completed in both corn and soybean, and planting, treatments, and harvest timings matched the production timeline of an average Midwest farm. Weed control and dry matter levels, crop injury, and crop yield were the metrics used to evaluate the performance of the 4-row unit. Weed control and crop yield in 2010 were excellent. Corn plots treated with full-flaming twice (FF2) yielded almost 11% higher than the weed-free control (WFC). Results in 2011 were not as good as 2010. Weed control levels for the FF treatments dropped significantly due to heavy weed pressure, and as a result, crop yields dropped. The FF2 treatment yield in corn was 20% lower than the WFC in 2011. Treatment results in soybean exhibited similar trends to corn. Overall, the 4-row unit showed potential to be an excellent addition to any farmer’s current weed control methods.

Subject Area

Agronomy|Agricultural engineering|Mechanical engineering

Recommended Citation

Bruening, Christopher A, "Development of Innovative Propane Flame Weeding Equipment" (2017). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI10271674.