Propane Industry Looks to Increase Propane Use With Steam Cultivation


Propane’s the Answer When Farmers Get Steamed Over Weeds Propane Industry Looks to Increase Propane Use With Steam Cultivation


 Washington, D.C.(April 9, 2004)—Agricultural producers get steamed when their fields become infested with weeds. Producers now have the option of using propane-generated steam to eliminate the troublesome weeds.

As preparations for next season begin, the propane industry is encouraging agricultural producers, especially organic farmers, to consider propane-powered steam cultivation as an option for weed control. The propane industry has funded research, through the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC), to develop new, cost-effective technologies that deliver the performance producers are looking for in weed control. In addition, steam cultivators can also help eliminate unwanted pests.

“Propane-powered steam cultivation is a viable option for producers, because of the increasing environmental regulations associated with weed and pest control,” says PERC Agriculture Programs Manager Mark Leitman. “Steam cultivation can reduce or eliminate the need for chemical treatments.”

With steam cultivation, heat is applied directly to the weed, quickly raising the temperature of the moisture in the plant’s cells. This causes the plant’s cell structure to rupture, preventing nutrients and water from entering the stalk and leaves. The temperature of the steam generated from the cultivator is approximately 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, but it can be adjusted by varying the water pressure.

Through propane industry research funded by PERC, Origin Energy of Australia developed a steam cultivator with a technology called Water Quenched Combustion that converts combusting fuel (propane) and water into a high-velocity, high-temperature, moist air flow. Unlike conventional flame weeding, this technology enables producers to precisely direct the heat at the weeds; eliminates flame damage to surrounding environments; allows the hot, moist air to sink into the weeds rather than rise; and eliminates fire risks. Origin Energy has sold the technology to D.J. Batchen Pty. Ltd. of Australia (, which is marketing the product under the name Atarus Stinger.

“The propane industry is excited about the potential for steam cultivation. It provides an opportunity to increase counterseasonal propane sales, while also offering a safe, environmentally friendly alternative for eliminating weeds in crops,” explained Leitman. “Steam cultivation virtually eliminates the potential of human or wildlife exposure to pesticide residues, and it does not contaminate water or soil.”

The technology has been successfully tested at controlling weeds in vineyards, orchards, cotton, and horticulture. In addition, the technology has the capability to defoliate potatoes, protect crops from frost, and heat greenhouses.

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 and click on the “Trades” link.