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Title: Establishment and production from thinned mature deciduous-forest silvopastures in Appalachia

item Feldhake, Charles
item Neel, James - Jim
item Belesky, David

Submitted to: North American Agroforestry Conference
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/1/2009
Publication Date: 5/31/2009
Citation: Feldhake, C.M., Neel, J.P., Belesky, D.P. 2009. Establishment and production from thinned mature deciduous-forest silvopastures in Appalachia. In: Proceedings of the 11th North American Agroforestry Conference, May 31-June 3, 2009, Columbia, Missouri, p. 301-306.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Past research has not adequately addressed effective management and utilization of silvopastures developed from the ubiquitous mature woodlots which comprise 40-50% of small Appalachian farm acreage. While some grazing in woodlots is common, a set of guidelines for optimal utilization of these areas is not. We thinned a white oak dominated mature second growth forested area establishing two 0.5 ha, eight-paddock, orchardgrass-perennial ryegrass-white clover silvopasture replications for comparison with two nearby open pasture replications. After thinning trees, silvopastures were limed, fertilized and seeded. Sheep were fed hay and corn scattered across the area to facilitate removal of residual understory and incorporation of applied materials into surface soil. We measured soil moisture in the top 15 cm using TDR and photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) using a system of 16, 1 m line Quantum Sensors during the subsequent growing seasons of 2004, 2005, and 2006. Paddocks were rotationally grazed by sheep with two 1 m2 herbage mass samples taken prior to animal grazing. There was no significant difference in soil moisture between silvopastures and open pastures however, there was adequate rainfall to prevent drought all three years. The two silvopasture replications had residual tree stands of 14.1 and 15.6 m2 ha-1 diameter breast height allowing 42 and 51% of total daily incident PAR compared to measurements in the open field. Total forage mass yield from open pasture for 2004, 2005 and 2006 was 9.9, 10.5 and 10.2 t ha-1 respectively and for silvopasture 8.5, 6.7 and 6.7 t ha-1. Silvopastures received 47% of open pasture incident PAR yet yielded an average of 72% as much herbage mass as the open pastures. The silvopasture soils were managed for forage production only a few years unlike the open pastures which received roughly a century of better management. Soil limitations may have contributed to decreased forage yield in silvopastures in addition to reduced PAR.