Innovative mechanization schemes for leafy greens integrating flame treatments, minimum tillage and residue removal to improve sustainability
In Italy, the specialized cultivation of leafy vegetables for the fresh-cut market is mainly carried out through intensive production systems in greenhouses. Repeated tillage of the soil is necessary to prepare the seedbeds for sowing multiple growing cycles during the season. This paper describes the innovative farm machinery designed specifically for these intensive cropping systems to implement sustainable soil management practices. Such machinery includes: a broadcast flame weeder; a pick-up brush-cleaner; a below-surface horizontal blade; a vertical-axis rotary hoe combined with flaming; a reverse-till rotary tiller combined with flaming. Mechanized operations are used for weed control, management of crop residues by removal and desiccation, preparation of seedbeds through low-intensity tillage. Flaming is applied to the seedbeds before sowing to eliminate weeds, and after harvesting to speed up the desiccation of crop residues. Removal of residues can also be carried out mechanically with the horizontal-axis brush, eventually in combination with the horizontal blade to uproot the plants and accelerate wilting. To reduce tillage intensity, seedbed preparation between successive crop cycles can be carried out using the two combined machines to replace the conventional tillage equipment, i.e. rotary hoe and spading machine. Each combined machine performs two main operations: tillage and flaming. The rotary hoe flamer is used to refresh previously sown raised beds, limiting tillage depth to 5-10 cm to loosen the soil, combined with the broadcast flaming to disinfect the surface. While, if soil cloddiness is excessive, the shallow-depth reverse-till rotary-hoe flamer can be used to reshape a smooth seedbed, combined with the thermal treatment, greatly reducing tillage intensity compared to conventional reverse-till hoes. By integrating the use of these innovative machines throughout the growing season, the number and intensity of tillage operations can be reduced to help maintain soil fertility.
Tomasone, R., Cedrola, C. and Mingozzi, M. (2021). Innovative mechanization schemes for leafy greens integrating flame treatments, minimum tillage and residue removal to improve sustainability. Acta Hortic. 1319, 131-138
flaming, leafy vegetables, low intensity cultivation, weed control, crop residues