Silvopasture

These systems comprise trees deliberately introduced into a forage production system (or, rarely, forage introduced into a tree production system), the whole designed to produce a high-value tree component, while continuing to produce the forage and livestock component indefinitely or for a significant time.

Forage system: usually permanent pasture, grazed rotationally. Other options are pasture cut for hay or silage. White clover (especially wild types) is more shade-tolerant than other pasture legumes and should be included in mixtures. Browsing animals are more likely to damage trees than large grazing animals or poultry. Deciduous trees are more readily browsed than conifers.

Tree component: may be timber or fuelwood trees, or a fruit or nut crop. Nitrogen-fixing trees can also be used to supply nitrogen for the forage crop. Trees are grown as standards or as pollards.

For more information on tree species choice in Britain, see Selecting timber tree species.

Fruit crops as the tree component are usually grown as standards to allow for grazing beneath. Apples, cider apples and plums are some of the possibilities.

Nut crops can include chestnuts and hazelnuts. Walnuts are slow growing and are only suitable if animals are excluded or if a cheap form of tree protection is available.

Design & establishment

Trees can be planted evenly at wide spacing (eg. 10 x 10 m), in rows with forage alleys (of 10-30 m width) between, or in clusters. All methods necessitate some form of weed control - black plastic mulches produce the best tree growth.
                                             

Silvoarable systems (eg. with walnut or other trees not suited to silvopasture when young) can be converted to silvopasture when arable yields start to reduce from competition after 10-20 years.

Livestock management is crucial to avoid tree damage by grazing, trampling and rubbing. This may involve seasonal exclusion when trees are most vulnerable, locating salt/mineral licks to encourage uniform livestock distribution, rotational grazing in sub-units etc. Grazing can control grass competition with trees for moisture and nutrients and reduce habitat for gnawing rodents.

Benefits:

Drawbacks:

Silvoarable         Forest farming         Other agroforestry         Forest gardening    

Agroforestry Benefits                   Back to Agroforestry overview

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