Flame Cultivation on Row Crops
PROJECT BACKGROUND AND DESCRIPTION
This project was a trying, challenging and learning experience. From the day we took the machine out of the crate, to putting it together, to the actual use of it.
We had to make some changes on the Flamer before I was able to get it out of the machine shed. The Flamer was wider than the machine shed doors and there were some narrow gates to go through. A local repair shop helped make changes to narrow it up.
The owner’s manual was very unhelpful. Parts were to be numbered and they weren’t. I called the manufacturer and he was reading the same thing that I was reading in the book! If the parts would have been labeled accurately, the assembling of the machine would have gone a lot smoother and faster. Because of the time it took to assemble the machine, the weeds were getting ahead of me. To get the flames pointed at the correct angle, adjustments were made several times out in the field.
By the time I got it going, the corn and weeds were about 10 inches tall. As I started going down the rows, it was difficult to keep the flames on the row due to the fact it is a flat land machine and Crawford County has contour strips on hillsides. Some of the fields we farm are as much as 23 degrees slope. I have a plan to put coulters on the front like a regular cultivator to help stabilize the machine.
At least 3 of the flamers were difficult to keep lit. I think it was due to the fuel line having debris, paint or something in it and the burning off of paint. By the time I was done, the nuts and bolts were staying tight. That was frustrating because I’d have it set, things would move and I’d have to start over. During the daytime hours you could not see what the flames were doing, so we ran it at night.
The flame cultivator operates off the liquid of the LP, not the vapor as home furnaces do. According to the book, the flames are 1500-2000 degrees. To control the size of the flame and the heat pressure you need to set the gauge. The higher the pressure, the higher and hotter the flame. The bigger the weeds, the higher and hotter you have to run it. Therefore, more fuel is used.
The following day after the first use of the machine, the corn and weeds were white. It looked like there had been a late frost and I thought I killed it. One week later, you were unable to tell it was the same corn field. The weeds were not totally killed, they came back from the roots, but it did allow us more time to get in the field and cultivate. After the corn recovered from that initial blast, it seemed to go into a growth spurt. The first field I flamed, I averaged 120 bu/acre. That was determined by using a monitor on the combine.
The fields that were flamed had less foxtail pressure and giant horseweed pressure. The field I used for my demonstration and test plot was the cleanest field of all. I think it was because it was cultivated before it was flamed. That field yielded 170 bu/acre. Fields that were not flamed had a lot of foxtail pressure. The yields were low on those fields. Those fields had only been cultivated. There was mixed results on different contour strips.
One field I did 25# pressure and the cost/acre was approximately $10.50. That is just the cost of the LP. Another field with more weed pressure, I used 40# pressure and it cost $17.00/acre. As far as I know, these figures are comparable to chemicals. LP cost $1.629/gallon. LP tank cost was $650. The flaming cultivator cost $6,534.
To the best of my knowledge, I killed very little corn, even if some of it was burnt off to the ground, it came back.
If the ground is worked up a little bit, such as by a rotary hoe or cultivating, the Flamer seemed to do a better job. Plus if the weeds are smaller, that is a great advantage.
The demonstration was done at night so people could see the flames and what the machine did. Approximately 12 people attended.
Sawyer, my 12 year old daughter, took pictures. She used the experience for the photo project through 4H. I covered the cost of film and processing. Cole, my 16 year old son, liked lighting the machine. It has to be lit manually with a torch.