Weed management consistently ranks as a high priority topic for organic vegetable growers, and yet most are not taking full advantage of the best cultivation tools available. When properly used, precision cultivation tools can quickly pay for themselves in labor savings. We received a two-year mini-grant from the USDA Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program (WSARE) to conduct educational outreach on mechanical cultivation, including field days and barn day workshops.
On August 16th, 2018 the first OSU Mechanical Cultivation Field Day was held at the OSU Vegetable Research Farm in Corvallis. The day-long event was attended by over 100 people, of which the large majority were farmers. The goal of the event was to increase the mechanical cultivation knowledge base of vegetable farmers, and provide a platform for farmer and equipment supplier exchange of ideas and opportunities.
Overwhelmingly, participants had very positive experiences: 95% said they gained new information to improve weed management in their crops, 91% planned on adopting one of the practices shown, and 87% said they planned to use new cultivation equipment on their farm. On a scale of 1-5 in terms of how useful the field day was, average participant response was 4.6 for demonstrations, 4.2 for exhibitor booths, and 4.1 for the presentations.
This year’s event focused on in-row mechanical cultivation, and equipment dealers traveled from Ohio (Tilmor), Pennsylvania (KULT-Kress) and California (Sutton Ag and Solectrac) to demonstrate tools in bean and lettuce crops. The cultivation equipment included finger weeders, basket weeders, precision-tine harrows, and a grower-designed cultivation setup. A mechanical transplanter and electric cultivating tractor were also demonstrated. Eric Gallandt, a weed ecologist from the University of Maine, delivered the keynote presentation on weed seed and seedling management. Sam Hitchcock-Tilton (KULT-Kress) gave a capnote presentation in the field, reviewing the tools on display. Participants also visited exhibitor booths of the visiting companies and local equipment suppliers. A delicious lunch was provided by OSU Catering, and the day ended with ice cream topped with haskap berry sauce (provided by Shinji Kawai, OSU).
A second Cultivation Field Day will be held next summer in the Willamette Valley, and a toolbar set-up barn day is planned for Deschutes County. A project web page will be developed to house cultivation resources, videos, and vendor links.