Impacts of Aeration Incorporation of Turkey Litter on the Yield and Quality of Alfalfa Production in Northern Minnesota

2007 Annual Report for FNC06-643

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2006: $5,902.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:

Impacts of Aeration Incorporation of Turkey Litter on the Yield and Quality of Alfalfa Production in Northern Minnesota


We have 310 acres of hay land, but we decided to put 91 acres into test plots. We have approximately 91 acres of grass and alfalfa which is planted in sandy loam soil. The seeding was approximately 40% alfalfa and 60% grasses which are a mixture of orchard grass, meadow brome and express timothy. This was seeded in 2005.

This year we pulled a Lawson Aerator over the ground which opened the ground with knives. We then spread turkey manure at a rate of 4-5 tons per acre. This was spread on a 40-acre parcel. In the 40-acre field, with turkey manure and aeration, we produced 2 ½ tons per acre on first cutting, 2 tons per acre on second cutting and 1 ½ tons per acre on third cutting. Also on the 91 acres we put on 10 gallons of micro-nutrients per acre. The cost of the micro-nutrients was about $7.00 per acre. The cost of the turkey manure was $323 per loaded truck and there were 11 truck loads for a total cost of $3,553. This was spread on the 40 acres at a rate of about 5 tons per acre. We are in the early stages yet, but have seen significant changes in production and quality.

In 2005 we put turkey manure on the 51 acres. In 2007 we aerated approximately 30 acres of this 51 to determine if there is a noticeable difference. We found the 30 acres that were aerated were taller and had a more vigorous stand. We averaged an additional bale and a half per acre. We feel this is significant.

The funding allotted to us was used for labor, soil tests, hay tests, field day fuel, some turkey manure, and land rent. It was also used to help with the cost of leasing equipment and the cost of advertising.

The field that was treated with the aerator and turkey manure has better quality hay and the hay tested with better tonnage. With aeration the soil is loose. There was no runoff in heavy rain and there were no standing water holes in the field. There is a lot less tire compaction too. The 40 acre and 51 acre fields seem to have increased earthworm activity. So we conclude that it is better quality with better production from the hay fields.

We plan on doing soil tests to see where we are in fertility. Possibly we will re-aerate the field if the soil seems compacted. There is no information available to see what is recommended on this practice. Our studies have shown that by using the aerator, our soil has become almost like carpet. We feel that this practice keeps compaction down to a minimum. And we are planning on using the practice of aeration and turkey manure on more of our 310 acres next year.

We had a field day August 1, 2007. There were about 15 people total who attended, which was okay for the first time. I gave a demonstration on how the aerator worked. There was a lot of interest in how it worked the soil and did not hurt the plants. I was asked to give a run down of what we have tried and hoped to achieve in the future. We had a local implement dealer demonstrate a New Hollard baler with net wrap; we had a seed company from Canada; we had our local Cenex Coop give a presentation on micro-nutrients; and we had a University of Minnesota speaker. Also we had Derek Crompton from the University of Minnesota Regional Extension Center, and Dave Grafstrom, Farm Management Instructor. They both helped set up field trials and demonstrations in the field.

For next year, I plan on mailing more field day brochures and providing more radio ads and more word of mouth on just what we are doing and what we have discovered. So far things look good and in our favor for having a successful project.

Also, a young farmer called and talked to me about the project. I shared with him the things we tried and found to work. He felt he would try some of these practices on his farm.