Organic no-till pasture and hayfield rejuvenation

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2016: $14,927.00
Projected End Date: 04/15/2018
Grant Recipient: Cornell
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Kenneth Smith
Cornell Cooperative Extension

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Agronomic: general hay and forage crops, grass (misc. perennial), hay


  • Animal Production: grazing management, pasture renovation, feed/forage
  • Crop Production: no-till
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Production Systems: general crop production

    Proposal abstract:

    Our goal is to increase the profitability of grass-based farm operations (dairy, beef, hay, etc.) by identifying combinations of legumes and grasses that can be no-till seeded to increase yields on under-producing pasture and hay fields that are too costly or difficult to reseed using conventional tillage. In this project, pastures and hay fields will be soil tested, treated with lime, if needed, then no-till seeded with various combinations of legumes and grasses.  The various combinations will then be ranked to determine which combination increases production over plots that are untreated, or just limed.  Rankings of increased production will be done in summer of the year of planting (2016) and in late spring of the year after planting (2017). Outreach will begin with on-farm pasture and hayfield workshops in summer of 2016 with Cooperative Extension and NRCS staff. In October of 2016 and July of 2017 articles will be written for Cornell Small Farm Journal, Country folks and other ag publications.  In November of 2016 and July of 2017 videos on the project will be produced and released on YouTube and Facebook.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The question we wish to answer is; what are the best combinations of legumes and grasses for organic no-till re-seeding to increase the yields of under-producing pastures and hayfields in locations that are too costly or too risky to re-seed using conventional methods.

    Our objectives are to compare combinations of seedings of hairy vetch, red clover, white clover, birdsfoot trefoil, annual ryegrass, Kentucky bluegrass, orchard grass, and other grasses to quantify which combinations are most effective at becoming established and improving yields on pastures and hay fields the short and longer-term.  Our objective is to do this across multiple farms to get a broader set of information about what species work best for organic reseeding and under what conditions.


    In spring as soon as field conditions permit, Rich Taber, Karen Hoffman and collaborating farmers will work together to flag multiple test plots of roughly half acre to an acre on each participating farm.  Care will be taken to make the test plots as similar in nature as possible on a given farm. Each farm will have one plot for a control with no additions of lime or seed, each will have one plot with lime added but no seeding, and each will have at six seeded treatments.   The seed treatments will be the same on all farms.

    At the same time that plots are laid out on farms soil tests will be done of the plots.  Soil  test analysis will be done at the Dairy One labs in Ithaca.. 

    Once the soil tests results  are back, where needed, we will  arrange for lime  to be spread on the fields in the study to get them as close to 6.0 as possible.

    After the test plots are marked and lime, if needed, is spread, the plots receiving seed will be seeded down by the farmer using a no-till applicator.  This will be a seed spinner, no-till drill, or a grain drill set to run on the soil surface.  Rich Taber will work with the farmer to calibrate the seed application to ensure that it is accurate in applying the seed in a measured and uniform way.

    Thirty to forty-five days after the seeding Rich Taber of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chenango will photograph all of the plots.  He will  then use a three foot by one foot square measuring square with three inch feet (to keep the bar uniform three inches above the ground)  to measure the number of newly established  seeds per square foot.  He will also us a pair of cordless trimmers to measure and collect the amount of growth above the top of the measuring square.  The sample will be measured for total dry matter and nutrients at the Dairy One Lab. 

    After measurement of seedlings and growth, farmers will be able to graze or harvest the plots as best fits their farm operation.  Rich Taber will then measure regrowth in an additional 30 to 45 days using the same method of counting seedlings and vegetative growth as previously described.

    After the nutritional tests of results of the second plot harvest are done a spread sheet will  be created to compare the quality of the seed establishment and the amount vegetative growth, and the amount of increase in quality and quantity relative to the control plots will be determined for both the first and second harvest of 2016.

    In 2017 one measurement will be done prior to harvesting by grazing or mowing.  Using the methods described above, the amount of growth and nutritional value relative the control will be established for all the treated plots.  Again this data will be placed in a spread sheet for purposes of comparison and relative ranking of the different plots will be made.


    March 2016: We  will meet individually with project collaborators (technical specialists and farmers) to make  sure that everyone  is clear about the proceed laying out test plots, seeding in the plots, measuring the plots and organizing workshops to evaluate results.

    April- May 2016:  Rich Taber and Karen Hoffman will layout the test plots on participating farms, test soils, lime fields that need it, seed down test plots.

    June-July 2016:  Rich Taber will measure plots for seedling establishment, growth and nutritional content.  July, workshop will be held by Kevin Ganoe, Karen Hoffman, Rich Taber Mark Schmidt, John Kemmeren to discuss  the results of the study with farmers and to make suggestions based on initial results.

    August 2016: Rich Taber will make second round of measurements of the plots to determine additional growth or regrowth depending on plots

    October 2016:  Articles will be written by Rich Taber for Country Folks and Small Farm Journal.  Interim SARE reports will be filed.

    November YouTube/Facebook videos describing and illustrating first year’s results.

    May-June 2017:  Rich Taber will photograph and sample the growth of vegetation in each plot in the same fashion as was done in 2016.  Vegetation analysis will be done the same as the previous year’s growth and will be placed in a spread sheet then evaluated to determine the most successful treatments.

    June-July 2017:  Final reports will be filed.  Follow videos will be released to YouTube and Facebook.

    Outreach plan

    Dissemination of the information will occur through a series of short videos on YouTube and Facebook, articles in the Cornell Small Farm Journal and in Country Folks and Lancaster Farmer, and through workshops with local farmers.  Results will also be published on the Cornell Cooperative Extension website

    The broadest distribution of the results will be in the form of YouTube and Facebook videos.  This distribution will be available to farmers across the northeast, but also nationally and world-wide.  Based on our experience with earlier grazing and cow comfort videos, we expect to reach tens of thousands of people using this approach.  The videos will acknowledge the financial support of SARE and will direct people looking for more information to the SARE website and to the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chenango County Website.

    In addition to the videos, the results of the study will be written up in articles for The Cornell Small Farm Journal, Country Folks, and Lancaster Farmer.

    Prior to the videos and the articles. We will have one on farm workshop with farmers and Extension Educators.  Though this is a relatively minor form of outreach, it will be important in getting questions and ideas from farmers that will help improve the videos and articles.

    Finally, the educator collaborators, will share the information within their organzations and with their own professional presentations.

    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.