Sep 1, 2020
Virtual ‘Midwest Mechanical Weed Control Field Days’ start Sept. 11
Sam Oschwald Tilton

Greetings dear reader,

It is a bleary-eyed early morning for me – writing this article trying to stay on deadline. The hottest part of the summer should be passing for most of us. I hope your fall crops are mostly planted, and hopefully soon the temperatures will drop, causing weeds to slow their growth and leaving your well-established crops to make spurts of final growth while out-competing any weeds currently disputing possession of the soil.

Sam Oschwald Tilton
Sam Oschwald Tilton

Garlic harvest has gone well here in my lakeside patch on the western shore of Lake Michigan. I waited perhaps a bit too long to harvest, hoping to give the bulbs all the time in the world to size up. Finally, my friend insisted, “Sam, they’re not gonna get any bigger in the next week – get them outta the ground so they don’t start to rot!” And I relented to the voice of reason, which is one reason to have good friends who know about garlic.

You know how some events just punctuate your year, like the first barbeque, first tomato, planting garlic, etc.? The event that has been coloring my late summer/early fall for the past four years is the Midwest Mechanical Weed Control Field Day – an event the New York Times would have dubbed “The quintessence of cultivation, a wonder of weeding” if they attended.

In normal times, a gorgeous day in mid-September finds hundreds of farmers visiting a generous host farm, where we all learn from each other and see the latest weeding machines demonstrated in the field, speaking with industry experts and enjoying a lunch together.

As you might imagine, this year, due to the Coronic circumstances, the field day has changed. Yep, we have gone virtual. This was a disappointment for me when we first realized the necessity of bowing to reality, but I have since come to appreciate the benefits of an online platform. In past years, it was quite an investment of time for farmers to travel from all over the Midwest for this valuable event; whereas this year farmers from all over the county can learn about setting up weeding tools in the shop and field from their phone, for free, in short 45-minute sessions. Heck, you can even listen to the audio as you are driving your tractor.

Of course I will miss seeing a field full of interested farmers, but it will also be neat to see farmers from all over the country gather for a more accessible field day. Maybe we’ll learn some improvements to bring to the in-person event when it makes its triumphant return.

On Sept. 11, from 12:30 p.m.-1:15 p.m. CDT, is Episode 1 – “Drone Wars.” We will explore camera-guided cultivators for both row crops and vegetables. You can see what all the fuss is about, what it takes to set up one of these machines and how to make adjustments on the fly.

On Sept. 18, from 12:30 p.m.-1:15 p.m. CDT, is Episode 2 – “The Awakening.” Watch preliminary tool set-up in the shop – starting with a bare toolbar, see the measurements and progression of adding parallelogram units and tools to exactly match a crop spacing. Then watch all of the preliminary adjustments that can be made more accurately in the shop so that by the time you arrive at the field your machine only needs limited adjustment.

On Sept. 25, from 12:30 p.m.-1:15 p.m. CDT is Episode 3 – “The First Encounter.” Watch precision cultivation of direct-seeded vegetables. Once the weeding tool has been mounted and adjusted in the shop (episode 2) watch the first run in the field and see how results are judged and adjustments are made to correct issues in order to quickly achieve accurate weeding in direct-seeded crops.

You can register in order to receive a reminder email at

You can also just sign on to the Facebook pages of either The Land Connection or Practical Farmers of Iowa to participate.

Each episode is eligible for one continuing education unit in crop management. All of these virtual field days are hosted on Facebook Live – so you can participate from your phone for free and ask questions as tools are being demonstrated. Hey, what a world we live in!

I suppose that I will not be seeing your smiling face in person at this year’s Midwest Mechanical Weed Control Field Day, and I will miss connecting with many friends old and new at the event. But nevertheless, we persevere, and I still hope to see your smiling face through the phone screen as we all make it through this different time with innovation, grit and kindness.



Above, Torsion weeders, finger weeders, basket weeders and many more designs have been demonstrated at previous Midwest Mechanical Weed Control Field Days. Photo: Dean Peterson

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