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Conference abstract, 2007

Steam controls weeds

Hansson, David; Svensson, Sven-Erik


Field experiments show that steaming of soil in narrow bands before sowing of row crops can be economically profitable in organic farming. Narrow bands of the soil were heated with steam to over 85°C in field trials carried out, in collaboration with Stockholmsgården, Ystad, Sweden. When the soil has cooled, the crop, e.g. onion, carrot, parsnip and sugarbeet, can be sown in the steamed ‘weed-free’ strip. Improved weed control The steam treatment gave the crop a great advantage over weeds, which led to greater competitive ability than when sown in untreated soil. Steaming of the soil in narrow bands reduced the need for hand weeding in the rows. It was possible to control Senecio vulgaris, Chenopodium album and Solanum physalifolium etc. Application method The steam was applied using a diesel-driven steamer from Regero (France). The hot steam was injected in the soil by nine applicators. Each applicator treated a ~10 cm wide band and the total working width was 5.1 m for the equipment. Plant emergence Pre-steaming of soil before sowing of organic sugarbeet also demonstrated a positive effect on emergence rate of the crop. The sowing rate was 8 seeds per metre and, on the areas of the field that were not steam treated, emergence was around 3 plants per metre. On the steamed areas, however, the emergence rate averaged over 7 plants per metre. Energy-saving Considerably less energy is used when the soil is steamed in narrow strips before sowing compared to when the entire seedbed is steamed. The method is also a suitable alternative for conventional growing when chemical treatment is not possible for some reason. Less labour intensive The need for hand weeding of sugarbeet was only 32 hours per hectare in the steam treated plots, which can be compared with approx. 132 hours in non-steam treated plots. The project was funded by the Swedish Board of Agriculture in Jönköping

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Innovative ideas in pest and weed control in field vegetables