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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: Agroforestry Systems
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/15/2009
Publication Date: 2/10/2010
Citation: Feldhake, C.M., Neel, J.P., Belesky, D.P. 2010. Establishment and production from thinned mature deciduous-forest silvopastures in Appalachia. Agroforestry Systems. 79:31-37.

Interpretive Summary: Small hill-farms in Appalachia are typically composed of 40-50% second-growth woodlands which provide little income. Knowledge is not available for recommending optimal residual tree density after thinning, or best management practices for establishing understory forages, to create suitable silvopastures. This is needed to facilitate rapidly realized increases in farm livestock production and improved future potential timber values. We have found that by 1.) thinning white oak dominated woodlots so that 47% of the daily solar radiation can penetrate, and 2.) using sheep to clear understory vegetation, disturb forest litter and help incorporate through trampling lime, fertilizer and seed, we achieved successful forage establishment. These procedures produced silvopastures that yielded 59% as much forage as pastures in open fields within two years. These results suggests that thinning to allow better growth of the most desirable trees can also provide an area that can support increased farm livestock production This work is useful to agricultural researchers studying multi-species production systems and to producers on small farms trying to maintain economic viability without serious environmental consequences. It will strengthen small rural communities by increasing local incomes and commerce with minimal impact on water and air quality for the larger regional population.

Technical Abstract: We thinned a white oak dominated mature second growth forested area establishing two, 0.4 and 0.6 ha, eight and 12-paddock respectively, 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 vegetation, disruption of litter layer and incorporation of applied materials into surface soil. 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 silvopastures received 42 and 51% of total daily incident PAR compared to the open field. Total dry forage mass yield from open pasture over the 3 years averaged 11,200 kg ha-1 y-1 and from silvopasture 6,640 kg ha-1 y-1. Silvopastures, however, had a higher PAR use efficiency (PARUE) than open pasture.