Interior Alaska Hay Field Renovation Project

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional + Producer
Funds awarded in 2014: $49,449.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2018
Grant Recipient: Fairbanks Soil and Water Conservation District
Region: Western
State: Alaska
Principal Investigator:
Brian Atkinson
Fairbanks Soil & Water Conservation District
Jessica Guritz
Fairbanks Soil and Water Conservation District

Annual Reports

Information Products

Interior Alaska Hay Field Renovation Poster (Conference/Presentation Material)


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


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, extension, farmer to farmer, networking, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, workshop
  • Energy: energy conservation/efficiency, energy use
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
  • Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration, soil stabilization
  • Production Systems: general crop production
  • Soil Management: soil analysis, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    This project will test the effectiveness of three different treatments to improve soil health and consequently hay production on overly-compacted hay fields in Interior Alaska. These field trials will include the following treatments: (1) utilize an overseeder to renovate a plot and seed brome grass, (2) renovate and overseed with radish seed, and (3) broadcast radish seed. Each treatment area will be at least 0.5 acres in size. A randomized complete block design will be used. Within each treatment area, the following measurements will be taken: 1. Soil quality analysis (during spring or early summer of the first and third year), 2. Forage sampling for quantity and quality of hay (early summer of second and third years) 3. Soil infiltration rates (early summer of second and third years). In Alaska, the high cost of renovating pasture and hay fields and the short production season result in hay fields that remain in continuous grass hay indefinitely. Some fields have been in production without renovation for over 30 years. Fields are severely compacted causing environmental concerns, rooting depths are shallow, and surface applied fertilizer is often lost to volatilization and runoff. Nitrogen that infiltrates below the shallow root system can easily be leached into ground water in areas where water tables are shallow. Yields and profitability are negatively impacted, soil health is extremely low, and biologic activity is reduced. This project is unique in comparing three options to complete renovation of fields without the high costs of seed, fertilizer, fuel, labor, and indirect costs including loss of income during a three-year renovation. Renovation can lead to loss of customers if supplies are not adequate to supply a producer's standing hay customers. Seasons are very short and standard field renovation including disking, plowing, and planting could take up to three years. Previous research and testing using soil aeration with an aerator was disappointing. No statistical difference was measured between controls and mechanically aerated plots. This SARE-funded project proposes to utilize mechanical over seeding that slightly discs and then seeds new grass in older hay fields and also use a cover crop (forage radishes) to break up soil compaction and improve soil health. In Interior Alaska, there are no earthworms to redistribute residue and establish soil pores. Cover crops have potential to improve soil texture and porosity in the absence of critical micro invertebrates. Interior hay farmers will be involved with testing the different methods in their fields and queried about their present practices and their interest in new methods. They will also recieve fact sheets and newsletter articles about the process. Posters, photos, and information, as well as questionnaires will be displayed at the local SARE conference, the Tanana Valley Fair exhibits, and local and state Farm Bureau and Soil and Water Conservation District meetings and conferences. Brochures will be developed, printed, and distributed that inform about soil quality, compaction, and methods of improvement. A video of the overall process will be produced and could be used at workshops or on YouTube.The Fairbanks Soil and Water Conservation District will also host information in their newsletter and on their web page as well as their Facebook page. A picnic field day will be held during the summer, inviting local hay producers to participate in a workshop.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Planning, equipment purchases, creation of site maps and plot layouts, and preparation for field season (Spring 2014)
    2. Scheduling equipment use and transportation between study sites (Spring 2014)
    3. Layout of treatment plots including flagging and GPS mapping (Early summer 2014)
    4. Soil quality analysis of each treatment plot (Early summer 2014)
    5. Plot treatments, including overseeding with hay seed, overseeding with radish seed, broadcasting radish seed, and the control treatment (standard farming practices) (Early summer 2014)
    6. Monitor treatment plots and take photos (Summer 2014)
    7. Workshop will be held in the field at one of our study sites (Summer 2014)
    8. Phone interviews will be conducted with hay farmers asking about their present field renovation methods and interest in alternatives (Winter 2014-15)
    9. Forage sampling and infiltration measurements at each study site (Early Summer 2015)
    10. Monitor treatment plots and take photos (Summer 2015)
    11. Weigh forage samples, send forage quality samples to laboratory, and data entry (Summer 2015)
    12. Develop preliminary outreach materials and present them at outreach venues (Winter 2015-16)
    13. Soil quality analysis, forage sampling ,and infiltration measurements at each study site (Early summer 2016)
    14. Monitor treatment plots and take photos (Summer 2016)
    15. Workshop to be held at a study site with presentation of preliminary results (Summer 2016)
    16. Weigh forage samples, send forage quality samples to laboratory, and data entry (Summer 2016)
    17. Data analysis, report writing, and development of outreach materials (Winter 2016-17)
    18. Outreach and education on results of study at local agriculture conferences, meetings, and using social media and website (Winter 2016-17)
    19. Follow-up interviews will be conducted with the same farmers as in 2014-15 to inform them of our findings and ask if they are willing to change their methods based on our findings (Winter 2016-17)
    20. Completion of all grant reporting requirements (Winter 2016-17)

    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.