Propane Powers Organic Operations Through Heat, Flame, and Steam

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Washington, D.C. (February 12, 2008) – Organic farming has become one of the fastest growing sectors of U.S. agriculture. To support this growing market, the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) has helped develop and test a variety of new technologies that provide California’s 2,000 organic farmers with chemical-free alternatives for weed control, cotton defoliation, and poultry house sanitation.

“As a rapidly growing sector of the agriculture industry, organic farming requires new solutions to old problems,” said PERC Director of Agriculture Programs Mark Leitman. “Propane’s small environmental footprint makes it an ideal fuel for organic farming.”

Weed Control
Available technology uses clean-burning propane to produce flame or steam to effectively control weeds, providing organic farmers an environmentally friendly and cost-effective solution. Many farmers already are aware of flame weed control technology, which exposes weeds to open flame to vaporize the water within the plants’ cells and destroy the plant’s photosynthetic capabilities. The Batchen Stinger steam weed control machine operates in a similar way. It applies 800-degree Fahrenheit steam directly to the weed to rupture the cells within the plant and destroy the weed. Both flame and steam weed control equipment provide farmers with modern weed control options that are compliant with the USDA’s National Organic Program guidelines.

Unlike mechanical cultivation methods, flame and steam weed control does not disturb the soil, reducing the risk of root damage and potential for soil erosion. These chemical-free weed control options conserve soil moisture and release fewer dust particles into the air than mechanical cultivation. Flame and steam weed control also eliminate the time and cost investments of pulling weeds by hand.

Poultry House Sanitation
PERC also helped develop and test a chemical-free sanitation method for organic and conventional poultry producers. The propane-fueled Red Dragon poultry house sanitizer generates heat from propane flames housed under a steel hood to sanitize poultry litter. The intense heat kills pathogens, reduces ammonia levels, and controls harmful diseases. It even has been used to control outbreaks of Avian Flu. The poultry house sanitizer provides a cost-competitive alternative to chemical disinfectants. It eliminates the risk of chemical residue, as well as water and soil contamination.

Cotton Defoliation
Another innovation PERC is working to develop could benefit organic cotton growers. PERC and the USDA Agriculture Research Service are testing a new propane-fueled machine that uses heat to defoliate cotton plants in preparation for harvest. Using propane heat instead of chemicals allows growers to re-enter their fields in a matter of days instead of weeks and mitigates the risk of chemical drift. The technology also eliminates many late-season cotton pests, including the silver­leaf whitefly and cotton aphid, which can cause sticky cotton.

“One of PERC’s goals is to empower the agricultural industry by providing farmers with an efficient and clean energy source,” Leitman said. “Through the development of innovative, environmentally friendly technologies, PERC can serve the agriculture industry and help protect our environment.”

PERC’s vision in agriculture is that, by 2010, the agricultural industry will recognize propane as a preferred energy source offering exceptional value. This value is achieved through a unique combination of product benefits, including cost-effectiveness, efficiency and productivity, reliability, portability, and environmental friendliness.

For more information on PERC and its programs to promote the safe and efficient use of propane in agriculture, call (202) 452-8975 or visit