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Thermal cultivator zaps weeds with fire

Latest new way to control weeds in corn and other row crops without chemicals is the Thermal Cultivator, developed by Wisconsin crop consultant Ronald Jones, of Neilsville, and implement dealer Scott Roehrborn, of Cadott.
They're working together and hope to have "at least 100 four and six row Thermal Cultivators ła Lilliston rolling cultivator equipped with liquid propane burners ł in the field this spring throughout the Mid-west"
"Thermal weed control isn't new but the idea has never been commercially termed," notes Jones. "Machines were on the market in the early 1960's but they got put on the back burner when selective new herbicides came along. Most everyone thought they were the real panacea. We think the time now has come for a serious second look at flame cultivation. Farmers are desperately searching for alternatives to chemical weed control, which generally was very poor last year. What's more, herbicide carryover has severely limited 1989 cropping options for many farmers."
Jones and Roehrborn feel that, by using flames to zap weeds growing in the row, they can significantly boost crop yields ł without the use of chemical weed killers. "One pigweed plant per 10 in. of row is enough to reduce corn yields 15 bu. per acre, or soybean yields 8 bu. per acre," Jones points out.
"The rolling cultivator will aerate the soil and wipe out weeds between rows. Propane burners will kill weeds in the row by heating them up to pop water cells in the leaves. Corn in the pre-emergence to 1.5 in. tall stage isn't harmed by the flames since the growing point of the plants is still below ground.- If needed, we'll go back a second or even a third time during the `8 in. through layby' stage. Heat is controlled by angle of the burners, and by ground speed, which will average about 5 mph.
"Fanners who'll be working with us this spring on flame cultivation will be laying the groundwork when they prepare the seedbed. In no-till, for example, we'll equip the planter with a shoe so as not to get too much trash in the rows."
The cost to equip a 4-row Lilliston rolling cultivator with propane burners, hoses and controls is $2,499, according to Jones. He estimates that in corn it will take 4 to 5 gal. of propane per acre per treatment, and that most fields will be treated twice and some of them three times.
For more information, contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Jones Consulting Co., Rt. 2, Box 197, Neilsville, Wis. 54456 (ph 715 743-4163).


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1989 - Volume #13, Issue #2