A combined flamer-cultivator for weed control during the harvesting season of asparagus green spears

Luisa Martelloni, Marco Fontanelli, Christian Frasconi, Michele Raffaelli, Michel Pirchio, Andrea Peruzzi


Weed competition during spears harvesting reduces asparagus yields. The application of herbicides during this period is illegal, and alternative non-chemical practices are needed. This research tested the effectiveness and efficiency of a custom-built combined flamer-cultivator to control weeds (both in the inter- and intra- spears production bands) during the spears harvest season. It also analysed the effects of various liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) doses on total asparagus yield, mean spear weight, and total number of marketable spears. In both years, the asparagus spears were generally not damaged by flame weeding using LPG doses of between 43 to 87 kg/ha. The same LPG doses were effective in controlling weeds, showing the same total marketable yields as the weed-free control. At high LPG doses (e.g. 130 and 260 kg/ha), yields decreased as a consequence of the damage caused to the spears, resulting in a lower number of marketable spears. Flaming did not affect the mean spear weight, and can be applied repeatedly during harvesting to maintain the weeds at a level that does not lead to a yield reduction. The repeated use of the combined flamer-cultivator (every seven days) led to higher yields than plots where weed control was not conducted. The new machine can be used in a period when herbicides are not possible. Flaming could be introduced by asparagus producers as an alternative, or in addition to herbicides applied in the pre-emergence and post-harvest of spears.


Asparagus officinalis L.; flaming; heat-tolerance; non-chemical; organic farming

Full Text:



Araki H, Tamura H, 2008. Weed control and field management with barley living mulch in asparagus production. Acta Hort 776: 51-54. https://doi.org/10.17660/ActaHortic.2008.776.4

Ascard J, 1994. Dose-response models for flame weeding in relation to plant size and density. Weed Res 34 (5): 377-385. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-3180.1994.tb02007.x

Brandenberger L, Shrefler J, Rebek E, Damicone J, 2016. Asparagus production. http://pods.dasnr.okstate.edu/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-1101/HLA-6018web.pdf [27 May 2016].

Cembali T, Hood M, 2009. Evaluation of an electrical harvester for asparagus. Int J Veg Sci 15: 158-167. https://doi.org/10.1080/19315260802611202

Falavigna A, Casali PA, Valente MT, 2012. Recent progress of asparagus breeding in Italy. Acta Hort 950: 133-142. https://doi.org/10.17660/ActaHortic.2012.950.14

Fontanelli M, Raffaelli M, Martelloni L, Frasconi C, Ginanni M, Peruzzi A, 2013. The influence of non-living mulch, mechanical and thermal treatments on weed population and yield of rainfed fresh-market tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.). Span J Agric Res 11 (3): 593-602. https://doi.org/10.5424/sjar/2013113-3394

Fontanelli M, Frasconi C, Martelloni L, Pirchio M, Raffaelli M, Peruzzi A, 2015a. Innovative strategies and machines for physical weed control in organic and integrated vegetable crops. Chem Eng T 44: 211-216.

Fontanelli M, Martelloni L, Raffaelli M, Frasconi C, Ginanni M, Peruzzi A, 2015b. Weed management in autumn fresh market spinach: A nonchemical alternative. HortTechnol 25 (2): 177-184.

Frasconi C, Fontanelli M, Martelloni L, Pirchio M, Raffaelli M, Peruzzi A, 2016. Thermal weed control on horizontal and vertical surfaces in archaeological sites as an alternative to herbicides. Int J Conserv Sci 7(S1): 301-310.

Kaiser C, Ernst M, 2012. Organic asparagus. https://www.uky.edu/Ag/CCD/introsheets/organicasparagus.pdf [27 May 2016].

Knezevic A, 2008. Overlapping confidence intervals and statistical significance. https://www.cscu.cornell.edu/news/statnews/stnews73.pdf [16 May 2016].

Kuznetsova A, Brockhoff PB, Christensen RHB, 2014. lmerTest: Tests for random and fixed effects for linear mixed effect models. http://CRAN.R-project.org/package=lmerTest

May 2016].

Martelloni L, Frasconi C, Fontanelli M, Raffaelli M, Peruzzi A, 2016a. Mechanical weed control on small-size dry bean and its response to cross-flaming. Span J Agric Res 14 (1): e0203. https://doi.org/10.5424/sjar/2016141-7976

Martelloni L, Fontanelli M, Frasconi C, Raffaelli M, Peruzzi A, 2016b. Cross-flaming application for intra-row weed control in maize. Appl Eng Agric 32 (5): 569-578. https://doi.org/10.13031/aea.32.11114

Neeson R, 2004. Organic asparagus production. http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/113417/organic-asparagus-production.pdf [16 May 2016].

Ngouajio M, Counts JW, Clark D, 2014. Effect of compost and Brassica cover crops on soil biomass and asparagus performance. Acta Hort 1018: 175-180. https://doi.org/10.17660/ActaHortic.2014.1018.16

Paine L, Harrison HC, Newenhouse AC, 1995. Establishment of asparagus with living mulch. J Prod Agr 8: 1-2. https://doi.org/10.2134/jpa1995.0035

Pedreros A, González MI, Guadamud C, 2002. Weed control during asparagus establishment year in a volcanic soil of Chile. Acta Hort 589: 155-158. https://doi.org/10.17660/ActaHortic.2002.589.21

R Core Team, 2013. R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing. Vienna, Austria.

Raffaelli M, Martelloni L, Frasconi C, Fontanelli M, Peruzzi A, 2013. Development of machines for flaming weed control on hard surfaces. Appl Eng Agric 29 (5): 663-673.

Raffaelli M, Frasconi C, Fontanelli M, Martelloni L, Peruzzi A, 2015. LPG burners for weed control. Appl Eng Agric 31 (5): 717-731.

Rahman A, Sanders P, 1996. Succession of weed flora in some New Zeland asparagus. Acta Hort 415: 279-284. https://doi.org/10.17660/ActaHortic.1996.415.39

Rodríguez-Salamanca LM, Foster JM, Hausbeck MK, 2012. Greenhouse and field herbicide evaluation on asparagus plants. Acta Hort 950: 101-107. https://doi.org/10.17660/ActaHortic.2012.950.10

Royston P, 1995. Remark AS R94: A remark on Algorithm AS 181: The W test for normality. Appl Stat 44: 547-551. https://doi.org/10.2307/2986146

Russell VL, Hervé M, 2015. lsmeans: Least-Squares Means. R package version 2.16. http://CRAN.R-project.org/package=lsmeans [16 May 2016].

Singmann H, Bolker B, Westfall J, Aust F, Højsgaard S, Fox J, Lawrence MA, Mertens U, 2016. Analysis of Factorial Experiments. https://cran.rproject.org/web/packages/afex/afex.pdf [16 May 2016].

Welker WV, Brogdon JL, 1972. Effects of continued use of herbicides in asparagus planting. Weed Sci 20: 428-432.

Wickham H, Chang W, 2016. An implementation of the grammar of graphics. http://ggplot2.org, https://github.com/hadley/ggplot2 [09 September 2016].

Zandstra BH, Morse S, Tocco RV, Morrice JJ, 2013. Response of asparagus to repeated application of residual herbicides. HortTechnol 23 (1): 109-113.

DOI: 10.5424/sjar/2017152-10668