Rhett Johnson, Director of the Solon Dixon Research Center, Auburn University near Andalusia, Alabama says the research team is ready to begin grazing their silvopasture demonstration and study area this spring. Sid Brantly, grazing specialist, NRCS, Dr. Mary Goodman, Auburn University, Dr. Rhett Johnson, Solon Dixon Center and Jim Robinson, National Agroforestry Center are supervising grazing management, site monitoring and research opportunities.
Students from Auburn and many forestry and wildlife schools from across the nation use the Solon-Dixon Research Center and are exposed to silvopasture at this demonstration area as a management alternative.
|Sid Brantly, NRCS Grazing Specialist, examines Longleaf pine in a silvopasture demonstration are at the Solon Dixon Center after two growing seasons. Trees are planted on the contour at about 300 trees per acre in twin rows with 40 foot alleys. (Photo courtesy Sid Brantly)|
This area was planted two years ago in cooperation with the NRCS in Alabama and the National Agroforestry Center. It was planted to longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) both in twin row plantings with wide alleys and in low density block plantings. Both plantings have around 300 trees per acre at initial establishment.
The area was scalped, ripped and given a row herbicide treatment at initial planting. Because of the scalping the area was laid out on a true contour to prevent erosion. The forage species is a bahia grass-bermuda grass mix typical of many of the pastures in the area.
The area is divided into four pasture paddocks with water in the middle of each paddock. This will allow the area to be rotationally grazed to provide quality forage for the livestock and protect trees from damage. Conventional wisdom says longleaf pine takes several years before it leaves the grass stage so some landowners have been reluctant to plant longleaf pine.
It is generally recommended that livestock grazing be deferred for the first three years, however, because of the growth of the pine. Rhett would like to begin careful grazing this year during the third growing season.
Tree Species for Silvopasture
Longleaf pine is a priority species for planting across the South. Because of its lower crown density and smaller branching characteristics in open grown conditions, it is seen by many as a natural for silvopasture on many sites.
Through the work done by the Longleaf Alliance it has been shown that with good site preparation, competition control, and use of tublings to protect planting stock, shoot elongation occurs in the first year or two and growth is competitive with other southern pine species, as demonstrated by this planting.
It is also valued for the quality of its wood. This site will help answer many questions about silvopasture management options using longleaf pine in the South.
By James L. Robinson
USDA National Agroforestry Center