Soil advice?

We received the following query about soil texture. Please post your comments below.

I’m an extension soils specialist working in Kansas and have received a request for help from a small airport that has many problems with their grass runways. Has anyone ever tried to change the soil texture before? In this case, they want to add sand in order to improve the soil texture and soil strength. Thanks for any help you can give me! I’m going to email Dr. Unruh at the University of Florida now. Thanks. DeAnn Presley.

4 replies on “Soil advice?”

DeAnn –

Here in NW Arkansas, we carved our airstrip out of a mountain. First we dozed off the brush and trees (small trees … it used to be a meadow) and then we scraped off the very rocky topsoil. Then we did all the dirt moving and grading, then moved the rock/dirt very poor grade “topsoil” back … maybe as much as 2″ thick. I then paid our kids $1,000 to participate in a “rock party”, picking up rocks from 8AM until after dark … tons and tons of them.

We mixed 3 grass seeds: Kentucky Red Fescue, winter rye, and Bermuda, each to its proper quantity per acre if used alone, with about a thousand pounds of chemical fertilizer and seeded it with a spreader, right on top of the ground, on October 2, 2007, just in time for some good rain. We then spread four truckloads of chicken litter on our 100′ x 2000′ airstrip. At, you can see the result 6 weeks later. It was way too late for Bermuda (should be planted in May), but I think the combination worked well. I’ve always had real good luck spreading fescue on bare ground with poor soil, no fertilizer, and watched it cover consistently.

Bob Rutz

What type of soil do they have? Have they done a soil analysis?? What kind of grass to they have at the present time? Runway lenght and width? traffic count?

What kind of problems are they having?

So many grass strips are modified hay fields.

I am looking into planting a grass strip in Georgia, but I am going to be a lot more scientific about it.


Ken Andrew

I live at Willis Gliderport in Boynton Beach, FL. After 35 years, our bahia grassed runway became overgrown with St Augustine grass, creating a 4” layer of decomposed grass cuttings and muck on top. In addition, we have a section with underlying muck that did not drain well. Lastly, the crown of the runway had flattened allowing water to stand after a rain.

The first thing we did was to kill everything with the herbicide, Roundup. After a couple of weeks, we deep plowed this under to encourage decomposition and mix the top mushy muck with the underlying sandy soil. After a few weeks, we plowed again. Then we disked it for a final mixing of the soils.

Then we used a laser guided grader and huge “pan” to move the dirt around and recreate the crown and swales. So as to maximize the drainage swells, we built several turnoff areas.

The runway was then seeded with bahia, protected by a fast growing millet to protect from erosion until the bahia can take hold and heavily fertilized.

It is pretty amazing that without importing even one truck load of dirt, we raised the center crown 6-12” and created a well drained runway.

To preclude losing the runway entirely, we split this program into two parts, splitting the runway down the center and allowing the continued use of one side of the runway during construction.

This is a two year project, one year per side. You should plan the dirt moving and seeding to coincide with the end of the dry season for dirt moving and the beginning of the growing season to get the fastest recovery for new grass.

Cost, about $55,000 for 22 acres, 225’x4,400’.

How might this apply to your airport? We used the underlying superior soil to mix with the undesirable topsoil to create a very stable and firm runway, laser graded for perfect drainage and smoothness.

Hope that helps.

Bill Tison


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