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