Explore the potential for using steaming for weed management in the citrus grove.

Steaming has been utilized in agriculture for soil disinfestation and sterilization for decades, but recent research by the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center (SWFREC) has looked into using steaming for weed management in citrus groves. According to a Citrus Industry article on the research, steaming offers a lot of benefits as a weed management strategy for citrus growers. See the details of the research below.

Advantages of Steaming for Weed Management

Published in the journal Applied Engineering in Agriculture, the research looked at the potential for steam weeding to be used as a weed management strategy for managing in-row weeds in citrus groves. Researchers with SWFREC built a steamer prototype featuring a water tank, water pump, steamer, generator, and a boom section that could be attached on a trailer.

As a form of “thermal weed control,” the prototype channeled steam at about 212 degrees onto the weed’s stem and canopy. The heat causes intracellular water to expand and rupture the cell membrane, which leads to the death of the weed. The research found that a combination of low tractor speed and high steam flow rate was the most effective, generating up to 84 percent total weed burndown after 12 days from the application.

Benefits of steam weeding include:

  • Reduces the need for chemical inputs like herbicides and lowers the chemical footprint of the farm.
  • Steaming is weather-independent in that it can be completed no matter what the weather is doing; rain and wind do not interfere with the process nor cause concerns about drift, runoff, or loss of efficacy like with herbicide.
  • With correct usage, weed steaming causes no health concerns to humans or animals.

Steaming was found to be particularly effective against weeds such as goatweed and sedges, but it was not as effective against creeping weeds like pusley. Steaming also did not eliminate all weeds, so it is a management strategy that would need to be repeated as some thermal-tolerant weeds regrow.

Weeds have been shown to harbor Asian citrus psyllids, the vector that spreads citrus greening, so a sound weed control management strategy is a must.

Griffin Fertilizer is committed to helping both growers and ranchers make sound agronomic and economic decisions in order to maximize the health of their grove and pasture. As a full-service custom dry & liquid fertilizer blender and crop protection product distributor, we will continue our mission to further advance Florida agriculture. For questions or concerns about your farm or pasture, contact us and one of our team will be in touch.