OSU’s 2019 Mechanical Cultivation Workshop

Author: Clare Sullivan & Heidi Noordijk, Oregon State University Small Farms Program

Publish Date: Fall 2019

On August 29th, 2019 the second OSU Mechanical Cultivation Field Day was held at the North Willamette Research and Extension Center in Aurora. The day-long event was attended by over 100 people, many of the participants were farmers. The goal of the event was to increase the holistic weed management knowledge base of vegetable farmers, and provide a platform for farmer and equipment supplier exchange of ideas and opportunities. Valuable feedback gained from 2018 field day evaluations added new elements to the 2019 field day, including a focus on walk-behind cultivation equipment, non-mechanical methods of weed control, and an experienced farmer discussion panel.

Walk-Behind Cultivation Tools

The morning demonstrations showcased walk-behind equipment in radish, cabbage, and radicchio plots. Equipment dealers traveled from near and far for the event. Equipment included electric hoes from Carts & Tools (Oregon), various non-powered hand tools from Johnny’s Selected Seed (Maine), the Ox a walk-behind cultivating tractor from Tilmor (Ohio), and the walkbehind tractor for bed shaping from BCS (Oregon).

Tractor Mounted Cultivation Tools

The afternoon demonstrated tractor-mounted cultivation tools, and equipment dealers traveled from Ohio (Tilmor), Pennsylvania (KULT-Kress) and California (Sutton Ag) to demonstrate tools in radish, radicchio, and cabbage crops. The cultivation equipment included finger weeders, knives and sweeps; toolbars were setup on both belly-mounted and rear-mounted tractors. Participants were able to try the new Tilmor cultivating tractor, and test out hand-steering rear-mounted toolbar setups.

Farmer Panel

The farmer panel held right after lunch was a highlight for many field day attendees, and offered the chance to hear from three experienced vegetable growers of different production scales. Josh Volk (Slow Hand Farm, < 1 acre), Frank Battilega (Big B Farm, ~50 acres), and Joe Siri (Siri and Son Farms, > 500 acres) spoke of their weed management successes and lessons learned, and answered questions from the audience.

Overwhelmingly, participants had a very positive experience: 88% said the demonstrations were very useful or extremely useful; 96% said they gained new information to improve weed management in their crops; and 80% said they planned to use new cultivation equipment on their farm. Comments included, “Tractor tool demos were very useful for me. Talking to the company reps was a quick way to get questions answered”, and “What was most useful was seeing the tools demonstrated, and having an opportunity to operate them.”

In 2018 faculty within the Small Farms Program organized the first OSU Mechanical Cultivation Field Day, which was a huge success and attracted farmers from Oregon and Washington. In 2019 the OSU team organized a second field day, and this year were able to collaborate with Washington State University (WSU) to host two field days in the PNW on the same week. This winter we will be launching a website with some videos of cultivation tools in use, and other mechanical cultivation websites. The field days were made possible through a two-year mini-grant from the USDA Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program (WSARE) to conduct educational outreach on mechanical cultivation.

The Small Farms team is interested in continuing workshops and field days on weed management. Please help us plan future workshops by filling out a short survey to let us know topics and equipment you’d like to see at future field days. At https://forms.gle/KJndcyDjaTFN6VJB9