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    New Organic Weed Control Technology Field Tests Begin


    WASHINGTON, D.C. (Feb. 3, 2005) – An organic option in weed control will be presented to farmers on February 9 at the World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif. The Atarus Stinger, a propane-powered thermal weed control machine prototype, will be introduced to the United States by Australian Company D.J. Batchen, Pty. Ltd. The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) was instrumental in transferring the patented technology to the United States. The machine will be field tested in the western United States in the weeks following the World Ag Expo.

    “PERC is committed to supporting the development of new technology, like thermal weed control, which has numerous benefits for U.S. farmers,” said PERC Agriculture Advisory Committee Member Robert Jacobs, Delta Liquid Energy (Paso Robles, CA). “We have worked to bring a commercial machine to the U.S. for field-scale testing to prove its value to the American grower.”

    The weed control technology is specifically designed for use in vineyards and orchards and is recognized by USDA as an authorized organic production practice, along with other propane-powered weed control technologies. The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) regulations state that an organic agricultural producer must use management practices to control weed problems through flame, heat, mowing, livestock grazing, hand weeding, mechanical cultivation or electrical means.

    “The Atarus Stinger uses steam-quenched combustion technology, which provides weed control without chemicals, so it fits especially well into an organic operation where spraying is not an option,” said Ian Johnstone, inventor of this technology, and manager of thermal weeding products with D.J. Batchen Pty. Ltd.

    According to Johnstone, through steam quenched combustion technology, steam is generated instantaneously and mixed with combustion gases. The gases emit from the generator outlets at about 430 degrees Celsius, or 806 degrees Fahrenheit. When the heat is applied to the weed, the temperature of the moisture in the plant cells quickly rises, causing the plant cell structure to rupture. This kills the weed as it prevents nutrients and water from entering the weed’s stalks and leaves. Depending on weed size and soil moisture content, the Stinger has the ability to kill numerous species of weeds.

     “This innovative technology offers organic and conventional producers a clean-burning and environmentally safe option to control weeds,” said PERC Agriculture Programs Manager Mark Leitman. “It also gives farmers greater flexibility since thermal weed control will work when weather conditions may not permit spraying.” The portability and high-energy output of propane per gallon add to the effectiveness of this weed control system.

    In addition, there are also a few more advantages to using propane-powered thermal weed control technology over chemical weed control systems. Thermal weed control does not require a significant amount of equipment or the special handling procedures that come with chemical herbicides. Farmers can reenter the field immediately following treatment and there is no need to delay harvest. Weeds are not able to develop resistance to the extreme heat generated by propane. And finally, propane is insoluble and nontoxic, so it’s not harmful to soil or water.

    The current Atarus Stinger prototype is trailer mounted and designed for towing by a tractor or 4-wheel drive vehicle. Based on successful field tests of the prototype and grower interest expressed during the test period, D. J. Batchen will begin commercial production of the units.

    For more information on the Atarus Stinger, contact D.J. Batchen Pty. Ltd. in Australia at        61 413 756 886 or visit http://www.batchen.com.au.

    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 www.usepropane.com and click on the “Trades” link.