Hand-held Flame Cultivation: Developing a sustainable weed control method in cranberry production

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2011: $14,992.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Grant Recipient: UMass
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Hilary Sandler
UMass Cranberry Station

Annual Reports


  • Fruits: berries (cranberries)


  • Crop Production: application rate management
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, on-farm/ranch research
  • Pest Management: cultural control, flame, integrated pest management, physical control, weed ecology
  • Production Systems: transitioning to organic

    Proposal abstract:

    Dewberry (Rubus sp.) is a serious weed in commercial cranberry production. It spreads quickly, reduces yield, crowds out cranberry vines, and is very difficult to control with current methods. Flame cultivation (FC) may offer a non-herbicide option for management of this weed. Our preliminary work with hand-held FC has shown that relatively short exposures (6-9 sec) with an open flame FC can decrease dewberry biomass; other work showed that cranberry recovers well from exposure to FC. The goal of the proposed research is to identify the best timing and application recommendations for the practical use of FC for dewberry control in cranberry cultivation. Since other researchers have reported a link between effective weed control with burning or FC and carbohydrate depletion, the field work will be combined with laboratory work that will provide information on the seasonal carbohydrate reserves in the dewberry plant. These data will be used to develop recommendations for the best time of year to use FC for dewberry control. The cranberry industry is eager to adopt innovative and economic control options for problematic weeds. The outcome of this study has the potential to reduce environmental and health risks by reducing chemical inputs, and to increase crop productivity by providing weed control. Information generated by this study will be disseminated to the cranberry growers via bogside workshops, newsletters, Extension meetings, web media, and fact sheets. It is likely that information generated from this work will be applicable to other perennial (and perhaps annual) crop systems as well.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Conduct a 2-year replicated on-farm study in the summer of 2011 utilizing hand-held FC for control of dewberry to investigate the effects of frequency and seasonal timing of FC applications. This study will be similar in construct to a 2-yr study that I initiated in 2010. The scientific integrity and result reliability of multi-year studies are greatly improved when treatments are repeated in time and space. This is particularly important for perennial crop systems. Repetition will provide validation of preliminary results and improve my ability to reliably communicate the results of my work in both grower venues and scientific journals. Qualitative measurements of stem number and length will be taken periodically, and aboveground biomass samples will be collected at the conclusion of the study to evaluate treatment effects.

    2. Analyze carbohydrates in root samples from dewberry plants treated with FC in a 2010 experiment (root samples to be collected in 2011) and in the proposed 2011 experiment (Objective 1, root samples to be collected in 2012) to gather quantitative data on how FC treatments affects the amount of dewberry reserve carbohydrates.

    3. Conduct a replicated study of two untreated dewberry populations to determine seasonal variations of stored carbohydrates in dewberry. Due to the destructive nature of root sampling, areas need to be identified were dewberry are growing without cranberries present, but in conditions similar to those found on a commercial farm. One site will be an area adjacent to a commercial cranberry farm, and the other at area at the UMass Cranberry Station. This information will be used to refine FC timing, so that treatments are administered at the time when seasonal reserves are known to be the lowest.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.