Propane has had a big impact on agriculture in general, since it's economical and has a wide variety of uses. But for organic farms in particular, propane can be a more environmentally friendly option that helps farmers maintain the cleanliness and efficiency of their operation. It has been approved as a clean, alternative fuel by the Clean Air Act and can be more effective than chemicals in many cases.
Here are some of the many ways organic farmers are utilizing propane:
Sanitation. Dairy and poultry facilities have used propane-fueled equipment to sanitize their facilities. Sanitizers that utilize propane to generate heat can be used to disinfect, since it helps kill pathogens and control diseases. It uses and leaves no chemical residue, which is vital for the organic farmer.
Weed control. Weeds can be a particular challenge to organic farmers, since pesticides are a common method of controlling weeds. With propane gas burners mounted on their tractors, farmers can pass a flame over weeds. The cell walls of the weeds are damaged, and they'll die. Propane can be used on crops like corn, because it's protected by its outer leaves and grows back after this treatment.
Defoliating cotton. When cotton farmers harvest their crops, they often remove the green leaves. Leaves can make the cotton harder to harvest by protecting it from harvesting machines. Sap from the leaves can interfere with the harvester and stain the cotton. Chemicals are frequently used on conventional farms, but propane heat can be used to defoliate. This is particularly attractive to organic farmers, but it can also benefit conventional farmers.
Insect control. Bins, silos, and other storage units need to be treated for insects. Propane heat can reach all the crevices without posing a safety risk to people or livestock. It works in all weather conditions, even when it's windy, and doesn't corrode the container.
Drying grain. Grain farmers who can harvest early can maximize their crops. The crop has small amounts of moisture and needs to be dried, however, before it's stored. Propane can be a good way to fuel drying systems because it is portable and easily available, even in rural areas that aren't served by natural gas. There's no risk of a leak and resulting contamination. Settings can also be changed to accommodate the temperature needed for different grains.
Farmers who are interested in purchasing propane equipment may be eligible to receive financial incentives through the Propane Farm Incentive Program. It may be a good choice for a variety of uses, especially for the organic farmer.