Interior Alaska Hay Field Renovation Project
During the field season of 2015, the plot treatments were successfully implemented despite numerous hurdles, including patchy weather, equipment troubleshooting, and logistics of transporting farm equipment between 3 different farms in a short window of time. The radishes and brome that were seeded showed decent germination and rapid growth. It was very interesting to see the differences between the treatments’ effects on each farm.
Planning, equipment purchases, creation of site maps and plot layouts, and preparation for field season was completed in spring of 2014. Scheduling equipment use and transportation between study sites was completed in spring 2014 and also in spring 2015. Layout of treatment plots including flagging and GPS mapping was done during early summer of 2014. Soil quality analysis of each treatment plot was completed in summer 2014. The original plan was to complete the first year of plot treatments during summer 2014- however, the summer was unusually rainy and we had to postpone for an extra year.
Plot treatments, including over-seeding with hay seed, over-seeding with radish seed, broadcasting radish seed, and the control treatment (standard farming practices) were completed in summer 2015 through cooperative efforts of FSWCD and the farmers. Plots were monitored and photographed during summer 2015. A workshop was held at the UAF Large Animal Research Station to inform local growers about our project. This location was selected because it is a more convenient location than the relatively remote study sites- which we hoped would attract more people (and it did).
Phone interviews are currently being conducted with hay farmers asking about their present field renovation methods and interest in alternatives. These interviews will be completed in early winter 2016. Preliminary outreach materials have been developed and presented at various outreach venues (in 2015).
Additionally, FSWCD met numerous outreach objectives for the project. A poster was displayed at the Tanana Valley State Fair during August 2015. Information about the project was also displayed at the 2014 Fair. Numerous website and Facebook updates were posted. Articles about the project were included in the Spring 2014 and Winter 2015 FSWCD Newsletters. An article was also published in the July-September 2014 “Sustainable Agriculture for Alaska” State-wide Newsletter. A display was set up at the winter 2015 Alaska SARE Conference and farmers showed an interest in discussing the project. Lastly, a field day was organized as mentioned above.
- Outreach Poster
- Newsletter 2
- Forage Cover Graphs from fall 2015 sampling
- Phone survey manuscript
- Newsletter 3
Timing the work around weather patterns, we successfully over-seeded and seeded brome and radishes at all three farms. Germination rates were decent, although in the over-seeded plots many of the radish seedlings were outcompeted by hay and weeds and subsequently died out (particularly in Scharfenberg “Overseed Radish_YR1”, see graphs).
Equipment was trouble-shooted and the over-seeder was attached and used successfully at each farm. At the Tomsha farm, the tractor did not fit with the over-seeder until additional holes were drilled in the tractor arms. This delayed some of the work but it was still accomplished.
Accomplishments during 2015 include: fertilized plots at all 3 farms, flagged plots for farmers to spray Cornerstone at Scharfenberg and Davies farms, sprayed Cornerstone at Tomsha farm, over-seeded and broadcast seeded plots at all 3 farms, and conducted forage percent cover sampling in each plot at the 3 farms. Numerous outreach efforts were completed, and of particular note was the Field Day hosted at the UAF Large Animal Research Station (LARS). They have been experimenting with their own over-seeder for renovating pastures. The Field Day included a presentation from P.I. Jessica Guritz about the hay field renovation project, a presentation from Laura Starr about her research on rotational grazing, and a field demonstration of the use of the LARS over-seeder. There were 8 people in attendance.
Radishes that were broadcast seeded into plots where Cornerstone had been applied grew to enormous proportions. They were up to 5 feet tall and many of the root/radishes were 4-6 inches in diameter. We expect this to have a significant impact on infiltration and compaction levels in the soil. However, it also presents the question of what to do with this huge amount of biomass. Plots will have to be mowed to allow for reseeding in 2016 and the plants will likely be composted but they could also be of use as animal feed.
Statistical analyses have not been done yet but forage sampling has shown that “Broadcast Radish” plots had the largest percent cover of radish cover crop. There was a large amount of variability between the different farms as far as initial field condition, germination and survival of radishes, and response to the different treatments. On the Scharfenberg farm, where the brome was the thickest, some of the plots over-seeded with radishes were completely out competed. Both the Davies and Tomsha farm sites were weedier, leading to the best results when the weeds were killed with Cornerstone before seeding radishes.
- Transport of over-seeder
- Dogs like to eat radishes too!
- Layout of the plots in 2014
- Medium sized radish plant
- Soil surface after seeding with over-seeder
- Radish seed
- Plots after Cornerstone treatment
- Loading over-seeder for transport between farms
- Over-seeder being used to seed plots
- Radish seedlings
- A radish in the “broadcast radish” plots
- Fertilizing the plots with an ATV spreader
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
During the first year and a half of this project, we have already seen benefits for the producers in our region. In particular, our surveys have reached out to a number of hay farmers who could really use help with managing their fields. They have requested assistance with soil testing, weed management, crop selection, and field renovation planning. Many of them are interested in learning about the study results and how those can be applied to their farms!
The project participants have changed since the grant was funded, due to various reasons (one farmer sold his farm, another changed her mind). Participants whose farms are being used for plots are: Randolf Scharfenberg, Mark Tomsha, and Stu Davies. Additional participants include Catherine Hadley (a farmer who provided an advisory function for us, helping with equipment troubleshooting and other issues), and Emma Boone, the manager of the Large Animal Research Station who hosted our field day.
Wild Iris Ranch
1470 Westmoreland Ave.
Fairbanks, AK 99712
PO Box 908
Delta Junction, AK 99737
Office Phone: 9074608628
PO Box 16200
Two Rivers, AK 99716
Office Phone: 9074889202
4800 Eielson Farm Road
North Pole, AK 99705
Office Phone: 9073228382