Date of Award

Fall 2016

Project Type


Program or Major

Natural Resources

Degree Name

Master of Science

First Advisor

Richard G Smith

Second Advisor

Serita Frey

Third Advisor

Andre Brito


This project examined approaches to establishing a functionally diverse forage crop “cocktail”, a mixture of 15 annual and perennial forage crop species with contrasting functional traits, within a hayfield for the purpose of increasing hayfield forage plant diversity and productivity. The forage crop cocktail was intended to enhance the diversity of the resident hayfield, as well as contribute to enhancements in overall hayfield productivity via biological interactions among the cocktail and resident hayfield species, rather than through external chemical inputs. We examined several strategies for both managing the resident hayfield plant community prior to sowing the cocktail and the timing and approach to seeding the mixture. At both sites, management (mowing with or without tillage) in the spring increased light availability at the time of cocktail planting relative to the unmanaged control; however, effects of management on soil moisture levels were less consistent. Overall cocktail establishment and growth was poor across sites, but was highest in hayfield management treatments that resulted in the greatest disturbance to the soil. Data from this study suggests that attempts to establish forage crops into standing hayfields with only minimal disturbance to the soil or plant community are unlikely to be successful.