Pat W suggested I get this movie, and I already have it!! So what are we
waiting for??? 

Following is the review of this movie. I would like to use it to kick
off a farmers' round table discussion. Perhaps we could host a couple of
sites. Farmers, if you are interested in seeing this dvd with other
farmers and have a chance to discuss ideas and practices please let me
know some possible venues and times that work for you. The two dvds are
a total of 82 minutes.

So let's start discussing possible locations and times that work for
you. Here is the review from New Farm

November 9, 2006: You know you're a farm geek when a DVD on cultivation
equipment has you on the edge of your seat.

But that's exactly what happened to a friend and I recently when we
popped "Weed 'Em and Reap" into the player. In fact (I stand convicted),
we watched it twice straight through.

A two-DVD set released late in 2005 by Oregon State University, "Weed
'Em and Reap" showcases cultivation tools (part 1, 36 minutes) and
reduced tillage strategies (part 2, 49 minutes) suitable for
non-chemical vegetable production. And as one farm geek to another, I
can tell you it's absolutely terrific-clear, informative and to the
point from start to finish.

The seed for the project was planted back in 2002, when OSU horticulture
professor Alex Stone attended a Northwest Farmer to Farmer Exchange
gathering focused on cultivation equipment. Someone in the group
observed that video would be a better way to communicate ideas about new
tools, since it was often difficult to understand the implements' action
from verbal descriptions or even still photos. To the benefit of organic
vegetable producers everywhere, Stone picked up the camera and ran with
it, figuratively speaking. Videographer Michael Bendixen, who joined the
team sometime later, does an outstanding job with all the field
interviews, close-ups, slow-motion shots and other illustrative effects.

While most of the farmers featured in the video are in Oregon,
Washington, North Carolina and Virginia, the tools and strategies they
describe should be of use to growers throughout North America and even
beyond. Some of the tools require substantial investment and would only
be practicable on medium- to large-scale farms, but many are simpler and
relatively inexpensive. Each segment is followed by a resources screen
listing contact information for manufacturers and suppliers. 

Innovative cultivation tools

The first DVD in the set is divided into four sections: in-row
cultivation, blind cultivation, mulches and flamers. For in-row
cultivation, we hear from Jeff Falen of Persephone Farm in Lebanon,
Oregon, about a cultivation method for young transplanted squash plants
using sweeps and Bezzerides spring hoes mounted on an Allis-Chalmers G.
The key here is to plant the transplants into furrows running the length
of the field (these are field-planted squash, not on raised beds), which
can then be filled in by the cultivator to bury weed seedlings close to
the plants.

Rob Heater of Stahlbush Island Farms in Corvallis, Oregon, describes a
farm-built "retractable blade cultivator" which makes it possible to run
hoe blades right down the crop row that are lifted up at intervals over
the plants with the help of a pneumatic cylinder. Another tool for the
same type of result is the Reigi weeder, made by Canada-based Univerco.
Essentially a hand-operated Weed Badger, the Reigi is a lightweight
frame mounted on the back of the tractor with a pair of PTO-driven
spinning weeder disks. An operator sitting on the back of the implement
maneuvers the disk in and out around the crop plants by means of two

In the segment on blind cultivation, Mark Wheeler of Pacific Botanicals
in Grants Pass, Oregon, describes his use of the Lely tine weeder for
cultivating both annuals and perennials three to four days after a rain,
when weeds are small. A few tips: move fast, and cultivate in the
afternoon when crop plants are more flexible and less likely to break
under the tines. 

Two more unusual tools for blind cultivation are a hayrake and the
wiggle weeder. These both act perpendicularly to the rows, the hayrake
in a continuous belt action and the wiggle weeder in a rapid
back-and-forth motion. Both are good for cultivating weeds at the
white-root stage in crops that are well-rooted and can stand up to some
impact from the tines. 

Flaming technology has come a long way since the homemade tractor- and
backpack-mounted models of 10 years ago. Improvements have focused on
three areas: capturing and concentrating the heat on the target area of
soil, reducing propane consumption, and improving operator convenience,
such as by lowering the noise level of the burners and offering
automatic ignition. 

The video features both farmer-built and commercial shielded flamers, as
well as some new European models that use ceramic plates to provide
infrared heat as opposed to an open flame, reducing fuel consumption by
up to 80 percent. As in all the tool segments, a wealth of practical
detail is included, from groundspeed to weather conditions to operating

Reduced tillage strategies

The second DVD in the "Weed 'Em and Reap" set should make excellent
viewing for anyone concerned about the heavy reliance on tillage that
characterizes some organic farms. The star of this episode is Ron Morse,
professor emeritus at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Virginia,
who (as many readers of New Farm will already know) has been working to
perfect low- or no-chemical reduced-tillage vegetable cropping systems
for the better part of a long career. 

Together with Mark Schonbeck of the Virginia Association for Biological
Farming, Morse describes a variety of high-residue, no-till vegetable
cropping systems based on the use of mixed-species cover crops to
provide nitrogen for fertility and biomass for weed suppression. "If you
get enough tonnage-2 to 3 tons per acre is kind of a minimum-you can
suppress weeds," Morse says. That doesn't mean there will be no weeds,
but you'll get suppression long enough to allow the crop canopy to close
without significant weed competition. 

Morse's favorite cover crop combinations include foxtail millet and
forage soybeans for fall brassicas; rye and hairy vetch for tomatoes,
peppers, or pumpkins; and crimson clover and barley for mid-summer crops
like squashes. Schonbeck has been experimenting with cold-sensitive
covers, like black oats and purple vetch, that winterkill in preparation
for planting early spring crops like onions or early broccoli. 

Fear not, there are tools on this DVD, too. Ken Fager and Robert Walters
at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems in Goldsboro, North
Carolina, describe the roller/crimper they've been working with
(somewhat similar to The Rodale Institute's cover crop roller
<> ), while Morse
describes in detail the "sub-surface tiller-transplanter" he's developed
over the years for transplanting vegetable starts through the thick
residues left by the cover crops. Morse's team has also discovered that
an Alamo flail-mower can be used to flail, roll, or flail and roll
non-viney cover crops like the cereal grains and some legumes. 

"Living mulch"

The final section of the second DVD focuses on the "living mulch" system
developed by Montana farmer Helen Atthowe. Inspired by the writings of
Masanobu Fukuoka, Atthowe has been growing tomatoes, eggplant, peppers
and broccoli in the high, dry area around Stevensville, Montana, for the
past 11 years. Her system prioritizes minimal labor inputs, low tillage
and generous organic matter inputs using widely spaced rows, overhead
irrigation and regularly mowed cover crops. 

One of Atthowe's labor-saving innovations is to grow clovers in situ for
green-matter addition to her compost. In the spring, the compost is
applied to last year's mowed alleyways, which will then become this
year's plastic-mulched raised beds. Atthowe believes that the high
organic matter levels and careful nutrient cycling that characterize her
system help her crop plants resist disease while flowering earlier and
producing top-quality fruit. The mowed covers provide lots of habitat
for beneficial insects, while the broccoli plants, allowed to flower
post-harvest, provide additional forage. 

It's simply not possible for me to summarize in words all the
fascinating insights and tips bundled into these two DVDs. It's like
attending a dozen top-notch field days without having to stand out in
the hot sun-with the added luxury of being able to rewind if you want to
see something a second time. My recommendation is, put "Weed 'Em and
Reap" on your holiday wish-list, suggest that your local organic
growers' group add it to their lending library, or both. Your weeds
might regret it, but you certainly won't.  



Vicki Morrone

Organic Vegetable and Crop Outreach Specialist

Michigan State University

C.S. Mott Sustainable Food Systems

303 Natural Resources Bldg.

East Lansing, MI 48824


517-282-3557 (cell)

517-353-3834 (fax)



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