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    Redesigned Thermal Weed Control Technology Returns for Demonstrations at World Ag Expo

     

    TULARE, CA (Feb. 15, 2006) – The Batchen Stinger, an innovative, propane steam weed control machine for orchard and vineyards that was introduced to the agricultural community at the 2005 World Ag Expo is back for the 2006 Expo following a significant redesign in response to field trials and grower feedback. The 2006 World Ag Expo, held February 14-16 in Tulare, CA, is the one of the world’s largest farm equipment shows, with more than 100,000 attendees expected.

     “The suggestions we received from growers in California and Washington at our field tests last year were instrumental in the improvements we made to the prototype unit,” said Kevin Smith,

    applications engineer for Australian company D.J. Batchen, Pty. Ltd., which created the Stinger.

    “The redesigned machine has a lower profile, enabling better reach under branches and limbs, and is also counterbalanced, providing more stability on hillsides.”

     The redesigned Stinger, with perpendicular arm extension ranging from six feet to eight feet, is trailer mounted and designed for towing by a tractor or 4-wheel drive vehicle.  Successful field tests of the prototype and considerable grower interest led to commercial production of the units by D. J. Batchen.

     Last year’s field tests measured the productiveness of the Stinger at a range of operating speeds, on various weed types that were at different levels of maturity, and through various vineyard and environmental conditions, including flat and hilly terrain.

     During the tests, the Stinger produced dramatic results in controlling all weed types at early growth stages, reducing average weed coverage from 85 percent to two percent after three days.  Thirty days after treatment, average weed regrowth was only 30 percent.

     Driven by steam-quenched combustion, the Stinger uses a generator to convert combusting propane fuel and water into a moist, high-velocity, 806-degree Fahrenheit (430-degree Celsius) air flow.  When 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.

     The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC), an organization committed to supporting the development and commercialization of new propane-powered technology, played a key role in funding and transferring the patented technology to the United States.

     “We share growers’ excitement with the commercialization of this propane-powered machine for weed control,” says PERC Director of Agriculture Programs Mark Leitman. “One of PERC’s goals is to deliver new uses for propane that benefit the agricultural industry, and the Stinger provides numerous environmental and economic advantages for a host of specialty crops.”

     The weed control technology is designed for use in vineyards and orchards and is recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as an authorized organic production practice, along with other propane-powered weed control technologies. The USDA National Organic Program 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.

     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 Stinger should be a great cost and time savings in my organic operation – eliminating the need for disking in the fall and additional clean up in the spring,” said Mike Naylor, a peach, plum and nectarine grower in Dinuba, CA.

    For more information on the Stinger, contact Kevin Smith at (805) 238-7809 in California, or visit www.stingerapps.com. Additional information is available from James Batchen at 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.agpropane.com.