Midwest Mechanical Weed Control Field Day returns!

The nation’s premier event for mechanical weeding tools – will take place on Wednesday, September 27, at The Ohio State University, CFAES Wooster campus.

Field day photo.

A full day of weeding tool demonstrations, trade show, and cultivation education for both vegetables and row crops! At the morning Expo trade show you can see weeding tools and speak with company reps from manufacturers in the US, Europe, and Japan, and meet the farmers in attendance from all over the region plus learn from experienced farmers and university weed scientists from surrounding states during the roundtable discussions – topics range from camera-guided cultivators to tine-weeders. A walk-behind tractor exhibition – ‘Walk-Behind Alley’ -features demonstrations of walk-behind tractors and implements from the past and present. You can also visit the trade show exhibit booths to meet other supply companies, like equipment dealers for all manner of machinery, seed, tools, fertilizers, and soils.

At noon, the field day will break for lunch – an opportunity for farmers to meet and network, or continue looking at trade show equipment and speaking with exhibitors. In the afternoon farmers follow the tractors out to the demonstration field, where corn, beets, and brassicas have been planted especially for the demonstrations. Myriad 3-point, camera-guided, autonomous, and belly-mounted cultivators and cultivating tractors will be demonstrated in the field and explained by manufacturers. These demonstrations will show how the machines should be mounted and properly adjusted according to crop and soil conditions, and will help farmers visualize how the implements can work on their own farms.

Row-crop tools in demonstration include precision-controlled tine-weeders and several types of camera-guided cultivators with finger weeders and all manner of other tooling – see all types of knives, hilling discs, etc. Demonstrations will be held in 5’’ corn. Check the field day website for a current listing of exhibitors and tools.

Vegetable weeding tools include cultivating tractors past and present, 3-point in-row camera guided machines, a variety of belly-mounted and rear-mounted steerable tools, and cultivators from Japan! Demonstrations will be held in 2’’ beets and transplanted brassicas. Check the field day website for a current listing of exhibitors and tools.

Registration for this full-day of learning and networking on mechanical weed control is just $50! Registration includes lunch and all the machinery demos you can handle. It is recommended that everyone register early as each year space runs out.

Here is the general information for the event:
When: Wednesday, September 27, 2023
Where: OSU Wooster Campus, 1680 Madison Ave, Wooster, OH 44691
How Much: $50 (includes lunch) Register online at:

For more info on the event or to register by phone, contact Crystal
at crystal@thelandconnection.org or (217) 840-2128. Inquiries for interviews on radio, print, and beyond are welcomed – Please reach out to Sam Oschwald Tilton, sam.oschwaldtilt@wisc.edu, or 920-917-9788.

Interested in exhibiting your products and connecting with farmers at the field day? Visit here

Optimize Potato Seeding Depth and Hill Management for Your Varieties, Soils, and Markets

As a potato grower, the number, size, shape, and color of the tubers you dig at harvest affect your income. These four characteristics are influenced by how deep seed tubers or pieces were placed at planting and the width and height of the hill created and maintained from planting to crop maturity. This article provides examples of how seed depth and hill size and shape affect tuber yield and quality. Given these examples and other information, growers may wish to evaluate their variety-specific seed placement and hilling operations, particularly because stolon or tuber initiation is underway in many area potato plantings.

1. The plant genetics factor. Tubers form at the tips of stolons which arise from the stem(s) developing from the seed piece or tuber. Most stolons extend from points on stems above the seed piece/tuber, although stolon tips may reach below it. Similarly, the number of stolons most likely to develop on a plant and, therefore, its tuber yield potential, tends to differ among varieties. Once initiated, stolon length can vary with growing conditions, leading hills to hold few to many generally tightly or loosely bunched tubers. Carefully hand-digging young plants to examine their stolons and newly initiated tubers and completing test digs at various stages of tuber development is very informative. The combination of stolon number and length and growing conditions shapes tuber characteristics. Optimal planting depths and hill conditions maximize tuber yield and quality. Proper hilling increases the volume of soil available for light-free tuber development and can assist with weed control.

2. The soils factor. Regardless of seed depth, stems and young plants must develop before stolons and tubers can, so promoting rapid, high, and uniform emergence is key. Warm, loose/friable soil with the optimal level of moisture promotes grower-friendly stand establishment, a foundation for large, high-quality crops. Of course, what is required to maintain those soil conditions planting through stand establishment and tuber initiation and development differs by soil type (especially texture), at minimum. Indeed, research and experience have shown that optimizing seeding depths and hilling operations requires adjusting them for coarse-to-fine textured soils and varieties used in specific fresh and processing markets. Reviewing reliable resources and completing on-farm tests will help determine the seeding depths and timing, intensity (e.g., amount of foliage buried), and number of hilling operations that are optimal for your operation, given the major soil-variety/market combinations you work with.

3. The market factor. Individual fresh (tablestock) and processing (e.g., potato chip) markets require tubers with many specific characteristics. Tuber number, color (greening), shape, size distribution, and specific gravity are among the market traits that can be influenced by seed depth and hilling operations — i.e., seed depth and hilling as they interact with and are influenced by soil and other conditions. Taken together, plant genetic, soil, and market factors explain why planting depths and hilling regimes should be tailored to the operation and adjusted within and across seasons as varieties, as soils and markets require. Currently, potato seed in Ohio and the region is often placed 4-8 inches deep in single-row hills which are reshaped once or twice after emergence while vines remain mostly upright. Approximately 20-30 percent of the visible foliage or rosette is buried at each hilling. Burying a large percentage of foliage at any time or hilling after vines “flop” and begin to close rows can be damaging. Similarly, hilling under conditions that may promote compaction or interfere with further vine or tuber development is also counterproductive.

Electrical Weed Control in Vegetables and Field Crops

This article is provided by Chris Galbraith, MSU/OSU Extension & Jenna Falor, MSU Extension.

Late-season weed management is essential to consider when developing a weed control plan for your operation. Despite one’s best efforts, weeds can often escape early-season control. This can be a result of poor timing, missing the plants with cultivation, spray applications or flaming, or due to herbicide resistance. If allowed to reach reproductive maturity, escaped weeds can cause management problems in future years due to replenishment of the weed seedbank. These larger weeds can also harbor crop pests and diseases, interfere with harvest by obstructing equipment, or degrade final crop quality through contamination from weed residues.

Management practices for escaped weeds are notoriously limited due to the difficulty of controlling weeds when they have reached a significant size. Weed wipers use an applicator made of an absorbent material, such as sponge or a rope wick, that is saturated with herbicide and used to contact weeds growing above the crop canopy, killing the weeds but leaving the crop unaffected. The downsides of this method include a lack of herbicide options effective on larger weeds, limited efficacy on herbicide-resistant populations (depending on what product is being applied), and its unsuitability for use in organic systems. Another option is sending in hand weeding crews to manually weed the fields, which is particularly common for managing escaped weeds in vegetable production. While this method does tend to be effective, the labor is expensive, time-consuming, and hard monotonous work for employees.

The major manufacturer and supplier of electrical weeding equipment in the United States is The Weed Zapper, a Missouri-based company that began production in 2017. Electrical weed control technology has also been developed by the Brazilian company Zasso and the European companies AgXtend, Rootwave, and Crop.Zone. While electrical weeders from foreign companies are as of yet rare in the U.S., familiarizing oneself with the technology that has been developed overseas shows the versatility of this technology in different cropping systems and gives a clue as to the future of the equipment in modern agriculture.

Pro-environmental attributes of the equipment are that it does not disturb the soil and does not require the use of any chemical herbicides. Electrical weeding provides systemic control of even larger plants, making it an effective option for controlling weed seed bank inputs by terminating weeds at or prior to reproductive maturity. Similar to mechanical weeding and certain herbicides, it is non-selective and therefore caution must be taken to prevent crop injury. This typically restricts in-season use to crops with low-canopy growth habits that don’t come into the path of the electrode. While this limits the application of electrical weeding, there still remains many crops where growers might benefit from integrating this equipment into their weed control plan.

Read the full article “Electrical Weed Control in Vegetables and Field Crops”.

View the factsheet “Basics of Electrical Weed Control”.

Start Scouting Cucumbers in Northern Ohio for Downy Mildew


Early symptoms of cucumber downy mildew. Photo by Raven Schaffter.

With the recent mild, cloudy weather, we could see an early arrival of downy mildew in northern Ohio.  Downy mildew is favored by moderate temperatures, overcast skies and rain. The pathogen, Pseudoperonospora cubensis, does not overwinter in northern regions and is introduced via sporangia (a type of spore) on wind currents from other areas. In Ohio and other Great Lakes states and Canada, the first “wave” of downy mildew likely originates in greenhouse production systems in the region. This wave rarely extends to central or southern Ohio. Over the years the first report of downy mildew on cucumbers in northern Ohio has been about 7-10 days before or after July 4. Melons are also susceptible to this pathogen “type” that occurs in the first wave. Pumpkin, squash, watermelon and other cucurbits are usually not affected. The second wave of this pathogen occurs later in the summer, with a variant of the pathogen arriving on wind currents from the south, affecting all cucurbits. This variant affects mainly southern and central Ohio, although it may spread north.

Underside of cucumber downy mildew lesion showing sporulation of the pathogen. Photo by Marty Bauer.

Cucumber and melon growers in northern Ohio should intensify scouting these crops and apply a protectant fungicide such as chlorothalanil. Look for yellow or tan angular lesions delimited by veins on the top surface of leaves, and fuzzy grey/brown growth on the undersides of the lesions. With a good hand lens or a smartphone camera with high magnification you may be able to see small dark brown/purple spots within the fuzzy growth. These are the spores of the downy mildew pathogen.  Once downy mildew is reported in the area, growers should ramp up their spray programs to include fungicides highly effective against downy mildew such as Orondis Opti, Ranman, Omega, Previcur Flex, and Elumin. More information on these fungicides can be found here.

If you suspect downy mildew in cucumber or melon please text or email pictures to Sally Miller (330-466-5249; miller.769@osu.edu) of both sides of lesions, with the underside in the highest possible magnification. I can often confirm downy mildew from photos, but if not will ask you to send a sample to the OSU C. Wayne Ellett Plant and Pest Diagnostic Clinic (CWEPPDC), now in Wooster. Instructions for sample submission are here. Digital images may also be sent to the CWEPPDÇ.

Thanks to financial support from the Ohio Produce Growers and Marketers Association’s Ohio Vegetable and Small Fruit Research and Development Program, there is no fee for this service for Ohio vegetable growers.

Impacts of Drought on Vegetable Production and Potential Solutions

Much-needed rain on Sunday has given agricultural producers some reprieve from the “flash-drought” that has been building across Ohio over the past few weeks. Ohio has seen abnormally-dry to moderate-drought conditions across much of the state, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) has activated its Rapid Response Team to address the dry weather and provide extension resources for agricultural communities, including commercial vegetable producers. More information can be found at the OSU Early Drought Response webpage.

Periods of drought have plagued humanity since agriculture began. In modern vegetable production systems, dry conditions can lead to issues at multiple levels. This article will unpack the impacts of drought on vegetable production and discuss possible solutions.


Crop moisture stress

Crops vary widely in their water use efficiency (WUE), i.e. the amount of carbon produced per unit of water taken up by the plant. Many grain crops have been specifically bred for high WUE to maintain productivity in dryland systems. Vegetable crops, on the other hand, have comparatively low WUE and are typically irrigated via drip tape or center-pivot. Due to their higher water needs in “normal” seasons, many vegetable growers are already set up for irrigation and so may not be witnessing as severe crop moisture stress as field crop growers who rely on the rain.

Heat stress

In addition to the lack of rain, temperatures in northwest Ohio climbed into the high 80s near the end of May. High temps can threaten young plants in other ways apart from increased water demand. When crops are transplanted into black plastic mulch they can be stressed by heat radiating off the mulch surface. Young plants can also be burnt if any plant tissue is contacting the black plastic, which may be common if soil moisture levels are below wilting point. Transplanting into wet soil, overhead irrigation, or applying kaolin clay to plastic mulch surfaces to temporarily increase sunlight reflection can help keep temperatures around the plant cool and conducive to crop health.

Dry weather pests

Hot, dry weather in the spring can lead to earlier and increased activity in plant pests like thrips, aphids, and spider mites. These insects thrive in warm and dry conditions, which is why infestations in greenhouse environments are common. Insect feeding can reduce crop yield and quality and the pests can also vector viruses that affect vegetable plants.

Outbreaks of thrips, aphids, and spider mites can be managed in part by supporting natural enemies of the pests. These include ladybeetles (adult and larvae), lacewing larvae, and minute pirate bugs. Aphids are also preyed upon by damsel bugs, assassin bugs, aphid predatory midges and several predatory wasps. Species of predatory thrips and mites can also help keep pest thrip and spider mite populations in check. Find information on identifying natural enemies in this guide from OSU Extension and this educational video from Dr. Mary Gardiner at OSU.

Insecticide/miticide recommendations can be found in the 2023 Midwest Vegetable Production Guide. Avoid broad-spectrum products to conserve natural enemy and pollinator populations in the field. Read more on the topic in this article from Zsofia Szendrei at Michigan State University.


















Pests that prefer hot, dry conditions: aphids (top), thrips (middle), and spider mites (bottom). Photos by University of Illinois Extension (top), Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (middle) and Mississippi State University Extension (bottom).

Weed control

Drought conditions also have implications for early-season weed control. With low moisture in the topsoil, weed emergence may be delayed and prolonged. Applying layby residual herbicides is important to keep weeds under control until canopy closure. Weeds that are heat/drought stressed also do not respond to postemergent spray applications as well as vigorous weeds. Plant leaves develop a thicker, waxier cuticle to minimize water loss which can also reduce herbicide absorption. Adjuvant usage may be needed to improve conditions for herbicide uptake. Weed growth and metabolism is also slowed, which reduces movement of systemic herbicides around the plant. Spraying in the morning can be advantageous for weed control, not only because of calm winds, but also because targeting plants at a time of day when they are the least heat stressed can improve performance of systemic herbicides. Read more on this topic in this recent article from Erin Burns and Christy Sprague at Michigan State University.

Wildlife damage

 Wildlife damage to crops can be worsened in hot, dry weather. Rodents and other vertebrates may increase feeding in vegetable fields when food and water is scarce elsewhere. Irrigation equipment may be damaged by wildlife (coyotes, mice, etc.) looking for a drink. Options for keeping away wildlife include netting, fencing, repellants, trapping, and other lethal/non-lethal deterrents. Resources include the Ohio DNR Nuisance Animal Control Manual and Wildlife Management Factsheets from the USDA/Michigan State University Extension.

Farm safety

Last but not least, the safety and well-being of agricultural workers is important to keep front of mind. Working in hot and dry conditions poses a risk of heat-related illnesses. Continuous hydration and proper attire can go a long way towards ensuring worker safety. Find more information on the major heat-related illnesses and their mitigation in this article from Penn State.

Dealing with drought-stressed crops and dusty fields can also take a toll on growers’ mental health. Ohio State University Extension offers resources to help handle farm stress. Farm worker/manager performance is dependent on good mental health, so be sure to take this aspect of your vegetable operation seriously.

To sum it up, hot and dry conditions impact multiple aspects of vegetable production. While the material here mainly addresses the consequences of a dry spring, drought can cause different issues depending on when in the growing season it occurs. OSU Extension is a resource to help vegetable growers through periods of drought by providing information and support. Please reach out to your county educator or a vegetable extension specialist to explore ways OSU Extension can help you make your vegetable operation more resilient to drought conditions.

Thank you to Ben Werling and Ben Phillips from Michigan State University Extension for observations and ideas that contributed to the writing of this article.

Chris Galbraith

Vegetable Extension Educator

Northwest Ohio
Ohio State University Extension
Office: 734-240-3178

Six Factors to Consider Given the Dry Season So Far

Although some areas of Ohio have received small but timely amounts of rainfall, the general lack of it across the state to this point in the season has become a concern, especially where dryland, non-irrigated crops are stake. As one example, according to one weather station at the OSU campus in Wooster, rainfall for the period May 15, 2023 – June 10, 2023 was the lowest on record for the same period since 1999 and roughly half the amount received during the same period in the previous driest year. Not surprisingly, stand establishment in a non-irrigated potato planting made on May 15 at the research station in Wooster has been much lower and slower than normal.

On the other hand, overall conditions for many irrigated crops have been acceptable, minus the damaging early season frosts and windstorms. Temperatures have been moderate for the most part, so damage due to the lack of rain has not been significantly compounded by problems associated with high temperatures. Also, a lack of rain can maximize the amount of time available to complete other work — although many would gladly trade some time for rain.

Indeed, dry conditions to date have interfered with crop establishment and development and other aspects of production, particularly where irrigation is not being applied. So, we welcome forecasts including a high probability of meaningful rainfall.

This article references six items to consider if rainfall begins to “even out” in terms of timing and amount.

1. Continued crop thirst. Irrigation tends to be beneficial in all but the wettest years. Even short periods of low water stress can damage crops. Therefore, those who have been irrigating or begin to irrigate may need to continue the practice until harvest, in accordance with rainfall amounts and other factors, per usual.

2. Nutrient availability. Dry fertilizers applied before, at, and/or soon after planting may begin to solubilize more completely, boosting nutrient availability. In-season applications may need to be adjusted to account for this increased availability, although later than planned. Consider in-season soil, tissue, and/or sap testing to assist in the process.

3. Weed control, particularly as affected by herbicide activity. Dr. Lynn Sosnoskie of Cornell University summarized this issue well in the June 7 edition of the Cornell Cooperative Extension VegEdge Newsletter. Contact Dr. Sosnoskie (lms438@cornell.edu), the Cornell Vegetable Program (cce-cvp@cornell.edu), or me (Matt Kleinhenz; kleinhenz.1@osu.edu) for a copy of the article, which summarizes factors to consider for weed control during extended dry periods and should rains resume.

4. Crop protection, especially disease. Soil moisture, nutrient availability, and weed growth may increase if rains begin and so may disease pressure. Crop protectants, application schedules, and other tactics may need to be adjusted to account for increases in leaf wetness periods, relative humidity, and, perhaps, disease inoculum levels.

5. Soil erosion. Ideally, this dry period will be broken by grower-friendly light rains capable of providing the most benefit with the least trouble. However, soil erosion is possible if rains are brief and heavy and fall on uncovered, unprotected soils. If possible, use the dry period to check, improve, and explore drainage systems and soil management tactics.

6. Crop growth and harvest readiness. The best-laid plans set before the season call for seeding and transplanting to occur on farm-specific schedules, partly to meet harvest timing and market goals. Following through on those plans is difficult under dry conditions since they slow growth and alter maturation schedules. For example, for fruiting vegetable crops, a rule of thumb has been that drought before flowering speeds maturation while drought after flowering can slow it. Regardless, early-season dry conditions followed by more normal rainfall patterns can complicate maturation timelines across plantings (early, mid, late) and variety maturities. So, monitoring and flexibility remain important.