Evaluation of the effects of aerators on alfalfa stands

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2011: $14,992.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:

Annual Reports

Information Products

Aerator Rental Program (Conference/Presentation Material)


  • Agronomic: grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Animal Products: dairy


  • Animal Production: manure management, feed/forage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, focus group, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning
  • Natural Resources/Environment: soil stabilization
  • Soil Management: soil analysis, soil chemistry, organic matter, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Several studies have documented reduced nutrient runoff with the use of field aeration. With this practice, vertical slots are made in the soil prior to manure broadcasting to allow for manure to infiltrate into the soil. However it is unclear how aeration will affect alfalfa stands where taproots may be more susceptible to damage and the crop is of higher economic value in our region. There are no best management guidelines established for this equipment with alfalfa forages and readily available information is conflicting. Alfalfa is a major hay crop in VT managed carefully for maximum sustainability. Most farmers in the local region are hesitant to aerate alfalfa fields to lessen surface compaction and increase infiltration due to the assumption that aeration will damage alfalfa crowns resulting in decreased production and stand life due to winter kill. Through this project we will use two District-owned aerators to aerate on-farm replicated test plots on alfalfa hay fields on four dairy farms in Rutland county. Alfalfa crown counts will be conducted at each plot prior to any aeration and again at the end of the growing season. Counts on control and test plots will be compared and statistical analysis conducted.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    By the end of this project, four farmers will have participated in an on-farm evaluation of the use of an aerator on alfalfa hay land. Five additional farmers will decide to use aerators for incorporation of manure on 800 acres of alfalfa hay land within the next two years. 50 farmers will attend workshops about the use of an aerator. 600 farmers will receive education about the use of an aerator on alfalfa through a popular newsletter and an informational brochure. 50 agricultural professionals will receive education about aerators through presentations at local and regional organizational meetings or literature.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.