Seeing the Pasture for the Trees

Shaded pastures are among the more challenging conditions faced by anyone trying to establish a productive pasture. This scenario varies but often involves a grazier who wants to set up a very intentional form of silvopasture, managing both trees and forage to balance the productivity of both. To be clear, there is no forage crop you can grow well under full leaf canopy. Plants need some sunlight to perform photosynthesis, manufacture sugars, and grow.  Although the ideal balance of needed conditions differs for each plant, there are also a set of basic requirements for any plant to thrive. Depending on the available sunlight, a shady area can result in a thinner stand. The less robust growth will also be less resilient to outside impacts like traffic or overgrazing. Shading reduces height of the forage species that have a naturally upright growth habit, and also leads to less tiller production. However, in shade tolerant species, leaf area and both shoot-to-root and leaf-to-stem ratios may be increased.  With less active cell division and growth, sugars are also apt to concentrate in the plant. Selecting Forage Some cool season species are more tolerant, especially orchardgrass, ryegrass, and tall fescue. Clovers are another good choice, since many species of clover are lower-growing and used to inhabiting the understory of a stand. Orchardgrass is best (think about the name – it’s right at home under trees). Tall fescue can do well, but it has lower forage

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2 thoughts on “Seeing the Pasture for the Trees

  1. Great article. Ensure fences will keep the livestock in – feral pigs are a huge problem and everything eats goats and sheep.

  2. ACRES USA has just published two articles about trees and goat browsing/grazing using coppicing and pollarding. Pretty complicated for this amateur!

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