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​​Control Weeds Safely and Efficiently with Propane Flame Weeding


If you're concerned about the environmental and health risks of chemical weed control as well as the associated high costs and problems with weed resistance, you're not alone. Many farmers are turning to propane-fueled flame weeding as an efficient, easy-to-use, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly alternative. This proven weed control method has been approved for use in both organic and conventional farming operations. 

Why choose propane flame weeding?

In comparison with chemical weed control, propane flame weeding:

  • Does not create chemical residues
  • Is not affected by weather variability
  • Does not lead to weed resistance
  • Allows farmers to return to field immediately after treatment
  • Preserves soil and water quality, prevents soil erosion, and conserves water
  • Costs 3 to 5 times less per acre
  • Does not require special licensing, clothing, or protective gear

In addition, propane flame weeding is more cost-effective than hand weeding and organic herbicides and can increase yields up to 25% to 30% compared with cultivation alone.

How does propane flame weeding work?

Propane-fueled flame weeding uses heat to disrupt the cellular function of weeds, rupturing the cell walls and killing weeds within a few days of treatment. Contrary to popular belief, the weeds are not actually ignited in the process.

Not just for weeds

In addition to weed control, propane-fueled flaming has a variety of applications, including:

  • Burning off cover crops and dead plants
  • Heating up soil to kill insects and other pests (providing 70% to 90% control of wintering adult insects, compared with 25% to 50% with chemical pesticides)
  • Removing plant suckers at the base of plants and thinning back plants
  • Pre-treating muck and killing flies and other insects in stockyards
  • Killing pests and burning the top layer of waste in poultry houses

Helpful tips

The following tips are taken from the guide "Propane-Fueled Flame Weeding in Corn, Soybean, and Sunflower" by the Propane Education & Research Council and the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

  • Apply 10–12 gallons of propane per acre when using nonselective broadcast flame weeding to treat the entire crop row.
  • Apply 4–5 gallons of propane per acre when using banded flame weeding (12-inch band flamed over the crop row). Lower propane doses can be effective when using a custom-designed hood.
  • Conduct flame weeding treatments around noon to achieve maximum weed control with minimal crop damage.
  • Limit post-emergence flame weeding application to two flaming operations per season on a single crop.
  • Irrigate field with half an inch of moisture before flame weeding to reduce ignition of crop residue.
  • Wait at least one hour after rain or heavy dew before conducting flame weeding treatment.
  • Treat broadleaf weeds at earlier growth stages (i.e., heights of 1–3 inches, typically with one to six leaves) to reduce the required propane dosage for effective treatment.
  • Improve the effectiveness of grass species control by performing a second flame weeding treatment within 7–10 days of the first treatment.
  • Conduct aggressive cultivation within a few hours of flaming to achieve significant grass control. To do so, adjust the cultivator shanks so they push soil on top of the flamed grass, burying it.

Emerging technology for increased efficiency

The most recent propane-fueled weed flamers employ hoods to improve safety, energy efficiency, and ease of use. The hood focuses the flames and protects them from outside elements, making the treatment more effective and reducing fuel consumption. It also keeps the heat near the ground and away from the crops. New designs also allow multiple rows of crops to be treated at the same time. ​