Powdery Mildew Management in Cucurbits

Powdery mildew colonies on the underside of a pumpkin leaf. Fungicide applications should start when these colonies are first observed during scouting. It is important to check both surfaces of the leaves. Photo by Josh Amrhein.

[Updated from 2022 post] Powdery mildew usually appears on pumpkins and other cucurbits in Ohio beginning in early July, but this year it appears to have come in a little later. The pathogen, Psudoperonospora cubensis, does not overwinter in Ohio; infections result from spores blown into the area on the wind.  Powdery mildew is favored by moderate to high temperatures and high humidity. However, unlike most other fungal plant pathogens, it is inhibited by free moisture on the leaf surface. Scouts observed a small number of powdery mildew colonies about 2 weeks ago on squash in our downy mildew sentinel plot at OSU’s North Central Agricultural Research Station in Fremont.

Signs of infection are small circular powdery growths on either side of the leaf. These spots enlarge and can eventually cover most of the leaf surface and kill the leaves. Stems and leaf petioles are also susceptible, but the disease is not observed on fruit. In pumpkins, powdery mildew may also attack the “handles”, which can be further damaged by secondary pathogens.

Powdery mildew is managed using disease-resistant varieties and fungicides. Pumpkin and squash varieties vary in resistance to powdery mildew; in general, the more susceptible the variety, the more fungicide needed. The choice of fungicide is important because insensitivity to overused fungicides is common. It is critical that a fungicide resistance management program is followed. Alternate fungicides in different FRAC (Fungicide Resistance Action Committee) groups, indicating different modes of action against the fungus. Fungicide applications should begin when the disease first appears and incidence is low (rule of thumb: at least one leaf of 50 scouted). Fungicides that are labeled for use against cucurbit powdery mildew can be found in the searchable Midwest Vegetable Production Guide for Commercial Growers.

OSU evaluations of efficacy of powdery mildew fungicides in Ohio in 2021 indicated that Aprovia Top, Luna Experience, Inspire Super, Rally, Miravis Prime, Luna Sensation, Microthiol Disperss, Vivando and Procure provided very good control of powdery mildew on pumpkins (see table in color below).  Velum Prime, Cevya, Prolivo and Gatten provided good control of powdery mildew on upper leaf surfaces but poor control on the lower surfaces.

Quintec provided good control in 2021 but in other years and other states has failed due to resistance. Fontelis, Bravo Weather Stik, Merivon Xemium, Pristine, and Torino have been shown to provide poor or variable control in Ohio or other states and are not recommended.

Jim Jasinski, OSU Extension, has been running field trials in central Ohio for many years to assess fungicide efficacy against powdery mildew on pumpkins. Some effective fungicide combinations, based on 2021 and 2022 data, are shown in the second table. Some of these fungicides were not effective in our bioassays (table in color), but when paired a broad spectrum protectant like Manzate may prove more effective than when applied alone. Most experts suggest adding a broad spectrum protectant fungicide like Manzate to more powdery mildew-targeted fungicides to reduce the risk of fungicide development, boost fungicide efficacy and protect the crop from other diseases.

Former Buckeye Dr. Andy Wyenandt (Rutgers Univ.) has suggested that spray programs for cucurbit powdery mildew should contain multiple fungicides with different modes of action/FRAC numbers. He suggest a schedule of A-B-C-D-E-A-B-C-D-E where A, B, C, D, and E represent fungicides from different FRAC groups applied at weekly intervals. A protectant fungicide like Manzate should be tank mixed with the powdery mildew-targeted fungicide. This program is primarily to reduce the risk of resistance to any single fungicide, but it will also provide some cover if the pathogen has come in already resistant to one of the fungicides in the program.

Always check the label for full list of allowed crops and use recommendations and restrictions.

Effective Fungicide Treatments to Control PM in Pumpkin in Ohio in 2021 and 2022.

Treatment Crop
Cevya alt. Quintec; all with Manzate Pro-Stick (FRAC 3,13) Pumpkin
Gatten alt. Quintec; all with Manzate Pro-Stick (FRAC U13, 13) Pumpkin
Procure + Vacciplant alt. Vivando; all with Manzate Pro-Stick (FRAC 3, 50) Pumpkin
Cevya alt. Merivon; all with Manzate Pro-Stick (FRAC 3, 11,7) Pumpkin
Gatten alt. Merivon; all with Manzate Pro-Stick (FRAC U13, 11,7) Pumpkin
Procure alt. Quintec; all with Manzate Pro-Stick (FRAC 3,13) Pumpkin
Procure alt. Vivando; all with Manzate Pro-Stick (FRAC 3, 50) Pumpkin
Inspire Super* (FRAC 3,9) Pumpkin
Aprovia Top* (FRAC 7,3) Pumpkin

*sequential applications for research only, must be rotated per label for grower use.


Pumpkin Field Day – August 24, 5:30PM

If you are a new grower or have been growing pumpkins and squash for a few years, this field day is for you!

Pumpkin flower.

This year the Pumpkin Field Day will be on held on Thursday, August 24, starting promptly at 5:30pm ending at 8pm. The location remains at the Western Ag Research Station, 7721 S. Charleston Pike, South Charleston OH.

Topics include vole and mouse management (Gary Comer Jr. – ODNR), weed management (Chris Galbraith – MSU/OSU), pollinator protection and insect management (Ashley Leach – OSU), and powdery mildew fungicide trial (Jim Jasinski – OSU).  There will be a small hybrid trial to also visit after the talks (small because mice and voles ate most of the seed and seedlings!). And plenty of discussion with the specialists and fellow growers during the field day.

We will provide refreshments and handouts, cost is $5 per person.

You need to pre-register for this event at https://go.osu.edu/pumpkinreg2023

Hope to see you out there!

Field Day Flyer – 

Cucumber Downy Mildew Spreading

Map of 2023 cucurbit downy mildew reports. Red = reported <1 week ago; Green = reported > 1 week ago. cdm.ipmpipe.org

Downy mildew is now confirmed in cucumbers in five Ohio counties: Sandusky, Fulton, Medina, Wayne and Knox. The latest report, from Sandusky County, was from our sentinel plot on OSU’s North Central Agricultural Research Station (NCARS) in Fremont. Our interns Raven and Audrey scouted the week before and saw no symptoms or signs of downy mildew. One week later, downy mildew symptoms and signs were present on leaves of every cucumber plant in the sentinel plot (see photos).  This illustrates the explosive potential of this disease on a highly susceptible host like cucumbers and the necessity

Downy mildew on cucumbers in the OSU Sentinel plots at NCARS, Fremont, OH, July 24, 2023. Photo by R. Schaffter.

Underside of cucumber leaf showing downy mildew lesions and signs of the pathogen, Pseudoperonospora cubensis. NCARS, July 24, 2023. Photo by Raven Schafter.

of managing it preventatively.  This is mainly done through applications of appropriate bound spectrum fungicides such as chlorothalanil and mancozeb plus specific fungicides (e.g. Orondis Opti, Elumin, Ranman) targeted against the downy mildew pathogen and other oomycete pathogens. See previous recent posts on management tactics for cucurbit downy mildew.

Cucumber Downy Mildew Confirmed in Three Ohio Counties

Severe cucumber downy mildew in Medina County, OH, July 24, 2023. Photo by Frank Becker.

Map of cucurbit downy mildew outbreaks. First reports for this year in Ohio: Medina, Wayne and Knox counties. cdm.ipmpipe.org.

Cucumber downy mildew was confirmed yesterday in three Ohio counties (Wayne, Medina and Knox), following a report last week from Michigan and several weeks ago from Ontario. While these reports are later in July than average for Ohio, it is likely that infections occurred at least a week earlier. Thanks to OSU’s Plant Pest and Disease Clinic Director Dr. Francesca Rotondo and Wayne County Extension Educator Frank Becker for these finds. Knox County is in central Ohio, so I’ll amend my July 19 post to include cucumber and melon growers statewide, who should add fungicides very effective against downy mildew to their spray program now if they have not already done so. Waiting until symptoms appear may be too late to avoid yield losses; effective fungicides should be applied preventatively. The best ones, according to research in Ohio, Michigan  and other Great Lakes states and provinces are Orondis Opti (FRAC 49+M05), Ranman (FRAC 21), Omega (FRAC 29), Previcur Flex (FRAC 28), and Elumin (FRAC 22). These should be tank mixed with chlorothalanil (Bravo, Equus, etc.) or mancozeb (Dithane, Manzate, etc.). Orondis Opti is a premix already containing chlorothalanil, but at a reduced rate.  Fungicides have restrictions on how much product can be applied and how often, so follow the label. The more effective fungicides should be rotated to avoid resistance development in the pathogen.  More information can be found here and here.

See my June 24, 2023 post for pictures of symptoms and instructions for submitting live or digital samples to OSU for diagnosis. Diagnosis is free for Ohio vegetable growers thanks to a grant from the Ohio Produce Growers and Marketers Association’s Ohio Vegetable and Small Fruit Research and Development Program.

Support for Mental Health in the Thick of the Season

White flowers of the common bean plant Phaseolus coccineus growing in the garden on a trellis against the blue sky and sunlight

Farming can take a toll on your mental health and wellbeing, and when the season ramps up, it may feel like you don’t have the time or the energy to prioritize these needs. If you are looking for space to connect with peers about managing stress and supporting mental health and wellbeing for both farm owners and farm employees, consider participating in a virtual group discussion on August 3 from 7:30pm ET – 9:00pm ET (6:30pm – 8:00pm CT).

Bridget Britton, Behavioral Health Field Specialist with The Ohio State University Extension, will get the conversation started and share resources as the discussion unfolds. Bring your questions, experiences, and tips while also holding space for others to share.

Space is limited to keep this discussion more intimate. It will not be recorded. Farm owners, farmworkers, and farm adjacent professionals are welcome to attend. This event is planned by FairShare CSA Coalition and Midwest Vegetable Growers Network.

Register through this link.

OSU Extension Bi-Weekly Fruit & Vegetable Report – July 21st, 2023

The OSU Extension Fruit & Vegetable Report is written/published collectively by OSU Extension staff across the state. 

View a recording of the OSU Extension Bi-Weekly Fruit & Vegetable Report updates from 7-14-2023 at:

Ag Robotics

  An exciting new area in agricultural innovation is the field of ag robotics. Integrating robotic implements into modern farming addresses numerous issues that hit specialty crop production particularly hard, such as the price, availability, quality, and dependability of farm labor. Autonomous equipment offers the possibility of achieving consistent, reliable results to routine fruit & vegetable production operations. 

  A recent field tour in Ontario put on by the Ag Robotics Working Group showcased a number of new robotic farming equipment from companies such as Naio Technologies, Agrointelli, Korechi Innovations Inc., and Carbon Robotics. The machines demonstrated at the event were mostly autonomous carriers for implements like planting units, cultivation tools, mowers, soil samplers, disease monitoring sensors, etc. This multi-functionality makes the robots more versatile than if they were designed to only perform a single task. At the field tour, the Carbon Robotics laser weeder stood out as the only machine that needed to be pulled/powered by a tractor. However, the laser weeder’s strength lies in its selectivity – the equipment was capable of differentiating weeds from the crop with “deep-learning-based computer vision”. Upon recognition, thermal lasers target the weed’s growing point while leaving the crop unscathed. The laser weeder that was demonstrated was not autonomous in its mobility, but in its ability to identify weeds for termination (and continuously improve its ID ability through experience) using AI programs.

  What was striking about the field day was that many of the stops were not at testing facilities or factory floors. They were at farms where the robots were already out in the field working, performing tasks like strip tillage and cultivation. While the concept of a robot may still seem like a futuristic notion, their use in modern agriculture is becoming more established by the day and is leading to new possibilities for fruit and vegetable production, in the Midwest and across the globe. 

Current developments in ag robotics – top to bottom: Naio Oz autonomous farming assistant, Agrointelli Robotti field robot, Naio Ted autonomous finger cultivator for vineyards, and laser weeder from Carbon Robotics uses AI to recognize and terminate weeds. Photos from Chris Galbraith, OSU Extension. 

Rely 280 Label Update

The EPA has released a new supplemental label for Rely 280 herbicide (glufosinate) for controlling weeds in row middles with a hooded sprayer or for use as a burndown prior to transplanting for cantaloupe, cucumber, summer squash, watermelon, tomato, and peppers. This supplemental label is good through December 1st, 2025. Contact your local BASF technical service representative for more information on restrictions and to obtain the label. 

Herbicide Drift 

Thomas Becker, Lorain County Educator
  Over the course of the last month or so, there have been a number of calls about vegetable plants that don’t look very thrifty. They aren’t really showing signs of a disease, but the foliage looks distorted or twisted, and the plant just isn’t growing like it was before. One thing to be looking out for this time of year is damage from herbicide drift. If you suspect damage from herbicide drift, one of the first things to do is consider the potential sources of the drift. This can be difficult, as growth regulators like 2, 4-D, can volatilize and travel quite a long way. Chemicals like this are used in the lawn care and agriculture industries, or may even be used by homeowners. It is important that if you suspect herbicide injury, you consider what has been done on your own property and then have conversations with neighbors to see if you can determine the source of the drift. There are certain crops that are more susceptible to herbicide drift. The list includes but is not limited to grapes, tomatoes, fruit trees, watermelon, and certain ornamentals. Some of the signs of herbicide drift are distorted growth, leaf cupping, chlorosis, and the death of the plant in severe cases. Symptoms can vary depending on the chemical that was applied. If the plant does not die from the drift injury, yields may be reduced due to the exposure. 

Herbicide drift symptoms in tomato. Photo from Thomas Becker, OSU Extension.

If you aren’t certain that what you are dealing with is injury from herbicide drift, you can always take a plant sample to our Plant and Pest Diagnostic Clinic in Wooster to help rule out the possibility of disease. There are some viruses that cause symptoms that can look similar to herbicide drift injury. If no pathogens are detected, then there could be a good chance you are dealing with drift injury. One way to help prevent injury in the future would be to make sure you plant your crops in a site that would be protected from surrounding yards or fields that are up-wind from your property. Be careful when applying herbicide to your yard – make sure that you are following the label instructions and being mindful of the weather conditions before you spray. You can also make use of resources like DriftWatch to help report areas that grow specialty crops so that applicators are more aware of the location of these important crops. 

If you determine that you are dealing with injury from herbicide drift and can identify the source, the best course of action would be to try and work something out directly with the applicator. Beyond that, you can contact the Ohio Department of Agriculture and file a complaint as long as it is within 30 days of when the drift occurred. 

See these resources for more information on herbicide drift: 

Crop updates



Striped cucumber beetles, squash bugs, and squash vine borer are out at full force (check out the video below). Squash bugs can be difficult to kill. Pyrethroids and Neonicitinoids typically work best to control outbreaks. Make sure to continue to scout after application- sometimes these populations will need repeated interventions. Bacterial wilt has been sighted in cucumber, a pathogen which is vectored by cucumber beetles. Recent high winds in northwest Ohio have caused some stem damage to melons. 


Cucurbit downy mildew has been detected in Ontario and recently in Michigan, but has not yet been detected in Ohio. Track the spread of the disease on The Cucurbit Downy Mildew Forecast website.

Fruiting Vegetables

Viral diseases vectored by thrips and aphids are being seen on tomatoes. Aphids are exceeding economic levels in peppers, and whiteflies are also causing some damage. Please see the following piece for further information on thrips and aphids from Dr. Ashley Leach:

2023 Considerations for Aphids and Thrips

Dr. Ashley Leach, Professor and Extension Specialist, The Ohio State University

Normally, I don’t worry too much about aphids or thrips. Outbreaks of either pest typically arise as a secondary outbreak rather than being the primary pest concern. Often, aphids and thrips are checked by voracious natural enemies (Figure 1). But that’s not this year. Aphid and thrips pressure has been high across the board in 2023. In the right conditions- typically hot and dry- these insects can run rampant even in the presence of natural enemies. Although, it should be noted that natural enemies have a hard time in hot, dry conditions. For example, some Minute Pirate Bugs, will lay fewer eggs in hot, dry conditions.  So, it can be a combination of factors, natural enemies struggling to establish in the hot, dry conditions while thrips and aphids take advantage of the weather to reproduce more rapidly.

Not sure if you have thrips and/or aphids? Thrips and aphids will impact leaf tissue in different ways. Aphid infested leaves typically curl in response to infestations (Figure 2). These guys have straw-like mouthparts and will typically stay in place and suck on plant tissues (like it was a Big Gulp). Aphids are normally found on the undersides of leaves. However, they will migrate to the tops of leaves if the infestations are large enough. Thrips, however, are highly mobile. If they see you checking them out, they will move quickly to make an exit. Thrips have rasping-sucking mouthparts, so the associated damage typically looks silvery (Figure 2). When thrips feed, they are puncturing multiple plant cells which makes for a lot of damage, giving way to a “bleached” appearance by the end of the season. Many thrips are thigmotactic (Word of the day!) which basically means they like to hang out in small, tight places like flowers or plant crevices.

If you have an infestation that needs treatment, consider the following insecticide options (table below) There are some really nice -highly selective- compounds that will provide excellent control without compromising the natural enemy community. Please keep in mind that these products are not listed in all crops, and products can have varying Pre-harvest intervals (PHIs). Mind your pyrethroids. Thrips and aphid populations can flare with repeated pyrethroid applications, so I would try to avoid this insecticide class (think Warrior, Bifenture, Capture). Pyrethroid insecticides are broad spectrum products and kill resident natural enemies, thus increasing the likelihood of outbreaks. Other pests in the field may force your hand, but make sure to scout the following weeks for aphids and thrips. 

For further information on specialty crop entomology, check out Dr. Leach’s lab webpage.



Second generation codling moths are hitting traps now, so it’s time to protect apples against codling moth infestations in fruit. San Jose Scale crawlers are likely active now, so time your sprays accordingly if you worry about infestations on fruit. Apple Maggot sprays should be timed now if traps are catching >5 flies/trap. Wooly apple aphid (WAA) populations are rising (more about aphids below). Japanese beetles have become a nuisance throughout the state. While annoying, these beetles are unlikely to cause significant damage. Typically, insecticide is recommended when we see defoliation exceeds 20-30%. 

Small fruits

  Herbicide damage from auxin herbicides (dicamba and 2,4-D) is being seen in grapes. Symptoms include twisting/curling of shoots and cupping of leaves. Learn more by checking out this factsheet from Oregon State University.

    Dr. Gary Gao has numerous berry crop research projects in development. See below for an update on a project on growing long cane raspberries:

Long Cane Raspberry Production

Dr. Gary Gao, Professor and Extension Specialist, The Ohio State University

  Long cane raspberry production is a very promising system for Ohio. Growers in Canada can produce around 22,000 lbs of raspberries per using the long cane raspberry plants from nurseries and grow them under high tunnel with fertigation. We are in the second year of our long cane raspberry project. This project is funded by an Ohio Department of Agriculture through a Specialty Crop Block Grant. Our project officially started in late 2021 and will last two years. 

  What is the long cane raspberry production? Long cane raspberry production system is a relatively new raspberry production method where raspberry bushes with long floricanes (5 feet and 10 inches) are produced in high tunnels or greenhouses, stored in coolers in autumn and winter and then shipped to growers in spring for planting and fruiting in summer. Growers can plant these “ready-made” plants with fruiting canes in a soilless media and a protected environment like a high tunnel or an unheated greenhouse or even under solar panels for fruit production in summer. This new and innovative system could help growers get around the problems of poor soil drainage that limit new cane growth and fluctuating spring temperatures that damage floricanes. The long cane production has been very popular in Europe and Canada. This approach has not been a viable option for growers in Ohio because there was not a nursery that grows and sells long cane raspberry plants.

Long cane raspberry trial plot at OSU South Centers at Piketon on July 12, 2023. Photo by Dr. Gary Gao, The Ohio State University.  

As a part of this project, I took a field trip to the Onésime Pouliot Farm in Saint-Jean-de-l’Île-d’Orléans, Québec, Canada to learn how long cane raspberry production is done on a commercial scale. Their raspberry bushes were at the peak harvest when I visited the farm on August 11, 2022. It was neat to see the “walls” of raspberries. Instead of growing them in the traditional high tunnels, the growers there designed an umbrella like structure to protect plants and fruits from rain and wind. All plants were grown in coco coir and fertigated with water-soluble fertilizers. They have been doing this for three years now. They also grow long cane raspberry plants for sale in Canada and US. I got to taste some freshly picked raspberries that day. Bonnie Lewis, Glen Mor, Kwanza, Skye, and Tulameen were the featured cultivars. Bonnie Lewis, Glen Mor, and Skye are not available in the US yet. I was very impressed by their yields and fruit quality. 

I was able to secure an import permit from USDA-APHIS in 2022. We were able to import several hundred plants from Canada in 2023. The plants came in large crates on a semi-truck in May 2023.

I am very happy to report that we made progress. We are able to grow the long cane raspberry plants extremely well. The plants are loaded with lots of green fruits as of July 18, 2023. They will start ripening around late July. Fruit harvest will likely last several weeks. I am very hopeful that the long cane raspberry production will become a standard production system for growers in Ohio and beyond.

If you want to learn more about long cane raspberry production system, register now for our free Specialty and Cover Crop Field Night by visiting: go.osu.edu/fieldnight

Come join us for a two-part, online and in-person, hybrid workshop to take a closer look at innovative production techniques for specialty crops, with a focus on long cane raspberries and tomatoes, and new types of cover crops to promote healthy soils. Part I will be online only via Zoom. Part II will be held in person at The Ohio State University South Centers in Piketon, Ohio. A meal will be included. Please see the event flyer for more information. 


Upcoming Events: 

July 27, 9:30 am -11:30 am and 5:00pm – 8:00pm, Specialty and Cover Crops Field Night

August 23, 8:00 am – 4:00 pm, Agriculture Technology Field Day

August 24, 5:30 – 8:00 pm, Western Ag Research Station Pumpkin Field Day

September 19 – 21, Farm Science Review

September 27, Wooster, OH, Midwest Mechanical Weed Control Field Day

December 5th – 7th, Grand Rapids, MI, Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable, & Farm Market Expo 

January 4th – 5th, Ohio Organic Grain Conference

Cucumber Downy Mildew Confirmed in Michigan

Downy mildew of cucumber.

Downy mildew was confirmed today in Saginaw County, MI. Dr. Mary Hausbeck’s team at Michigan State University also detected spores of the downy mildew pathogen, Pseudoperonospora cubensis, in air samples in several MI counties.  Although we haven’t seen or heard of downy mildew on cucumbers yet this year in Ohio, it is likely already here or soon will be. Cucumber and melon growers in northern Ohio should start adding fungicides very effective against downy mildew to their spray programs now. These are Orondis Opti, Ranman, Omega, Previcur Flex, and Elumin. More information on these fungicides can be found here.

Crop Vigor and Weed Pressure

The middle of the main season can be a pivotal stage in crop-weed relations. Weed growth may begin to overcome steps taken earlier to control it, including herbicide application and cultivation. Also, pre-harvest intervals or plant-back restrictions, concerns over potential crop damage, and other factors may limit the use of additional chemical or mechanical tactics like applied before crops emerged and closed rows. Further, weed seed produced mid-late season can increase weed control challenges in following years. Under these circumstances, vigorous crops able to slow weed growth for even a short time can be beneficial. Creating shade and utilizing water and nutrients are two ways vigorous crops can tip the crop-weed competition in the grower’s favor. The vigor and “out-grow/out-compete the weeds” factor may be most important for crops for which cultivation and herbicide options are relatively limited. The two pictures below partially illustrate the crop vigor-developing weed pressure relationship as it stands in a potato planting before the potato vines fall, the canopy opens, and vines eventually decline or senesce. A large, vigorous crop canopy as a product of the variety and good growing conditions and supportive management is its own type of weed suppression.

Hardin County Fruit and Vegetable Crop Walk

Hardin County – There is a segment of agriculture in southeastern Hardin County that specializes in commercial fruit and vegetable production. Hardin County is also home to the Scioto Valley Produce Auction near Mt. Victory where much of this produce is sold. Hardin County OSU Extension has planned a Fruit and Vegetable Crop Walk program on Wednesday, July 19 from 6:00-8:00 pm to help with fruit and vegetable production issues. The location of the program will be on a produce farm at 17956 Township Road 245, Mt. Victory. It is open to all fruit and vegetable producers, whether they are commercial or home gardeners.

Gary Gao, OSU Extension Small Fruit Production Specialist will provide information on growing raspberries. Matt Kleinhenz, OSU Extension Vegetable Production Specialist will provide a vegetable production update, Chris Galbraith, OSU/MSU Extension Vegetable Extension Educator, Northwest Ohio will provide a weed control update. Frank Becker, OSU Extension Educator, will provide a fruit and vegetable issues update from Wayne County. Tommy Becker, OSU Extension Educator, will provide a fruit and vegetable issues update from Lorain County.

The program will be held outside so bring your lawn chair and umbrella in case of rain. There will be a diagnostic table so be sure to bring along any weeds, plant nutrition problems, plant diseases, and insect specimens in a sealed plastic bag for questions and answers. The program will conclude with a walk through a produce field or hoop house, pointing out fruit and vegetable issues and steps to properly manage them. There is no cost to attend this event.

“Can I …?”, “What about …?”: Farmers Improving Their and Other Farms through Research

The season for field days, crop walks, twilight tours, tailgate chats, blog posts, phone calls from the field, and other ways to share and receive input is underway, and the goal is always the same – learn, and improve farm operations in some way. On-farm research contributes much to that learning and improvement process. That message has been driven home to my team and me many times through our years of working closely with vegetable growers in designing, completing, and summarizing and sharing findings from on-farm research they and we completed. The same message was also highlighted in a recent conversation among farmers, researchers, and educators (view/listen at https://www.youtube.com/@OSU-organic).

For background, the OSU Organic Food and Farming and Education and Research Program (https://offer.osu.edu/home) hosts monthly online discussions focused on recent, on-going, or future research pertinent to Ohio organic production. Participants include farmers, researchers, and educators and many comments also inform and are informed by experiences with conventional production. Recordings of the meetings are available at the YouTube channel URL above.

The conversation on July 7 featured a presentation by Stefan Gailans from Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI). Stefan leads PFI’s Cooperators’ Program (https://practicalfarmers.org/programs/farmer-led-research/cooperators-program/), where he helps farmers turn their research ideas into relevant and shareable knowledge. Information from Stefan’s presentation is below but taking in the entire presentation and follow-up discussion is encouraged (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpVAdWGG0w0).

1. PFI (https://practicalfarmers.org/), OEFFA (https://grow.oeffa.org/), and OPGMA (https://www.opgma.org/) have similar goals.

2. The PFI Cooperators’ Program helps farmers learn from each other through farmer-led on-farm investigation and information sharing.

3. The PFI Cooperators’ Program is a community of curious, creative farmers including scientific methods in how they improve their farms. Their investigations (e.g., paired trials) inform their decisions. The process involves putting ideas and farm practices to the test using simple but effective scientific methods. Intentional observation focused on what the farmer is keen to learn about and important to them is the foundation of the process.

4. Many questions are often straightforward “A versus B” or “yes versus no” types. Investigating them often leads to a-ha moments and other more complicated questions. A-ha moments can also reveal that some (new) practices reduce other costs, providing indirect but real benefits.

5. Asking “Can I …?” or “What about …?” and completing an investigation relies on curiosity, creativity, and commitment because extra work is required. Farmers receive a small stipend through program sponsors.

6. Farmer participants can discover that on-farm research helps them “train their eye” and look for or pay attention to other things then ask questions about them. They also become better able to evaluate other peoples’ research and its findings, allowing them to select and use information from industry, university, and other sources more effectively.

Comment from a PFI Cooperators’ Program participant.

7. The program is not all about only the investigations. Much effort is also put in to ensuring that lessons and findings reach other farmers through programs, publications, and YouTube videos offered on an ongoing basis.

8. About the 2022 research program –

(a) seventy-five trials were led by forty-five farmers.

(b) Most farmers had at least eleven years of farming experience and most of them took part primarily to improve their production.

(c) 88% of trials spurred new ideas or other observations. Seventy-six percent of participants reported a moderate to very large change in knowledge after completing a trial. Fifty-four percent of participants reported they will make a change on their farm following their trial but 22% said they would not make a change. Both outcomes are productive because they represent learning and increased confidence in decision-making.

It is never too late or early to start investigating a question important to you using on-farm research. If needed, consider connecting with another farmer, member of industry, or research-extension person familiar with the process.