December No. 4

Warm-Season Grass Cover Between Tree Rows

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Permanent grass cover may be desirable between tree rows for erosion control, weed suppression, snow catch, wildlife use, and other environmental benefits. Tree plantings should be maintained weed free within the rows (cultivation, chemical, or fabric) 3 to 5 feet o­n each side, but large areas between the rows may be seeded to less competitive, shallow rooting warm-season bunchgrasses such as blue grama and/or sideoats grama. These native warm-season species are dormant during the early growing season and do not compete for moisture during this critical tree growth period. Another benefit of warm-season species is the opportunity to apply glyphosate herbicide to cool-season grasses or weeds (bromegrass, quackgrass, dandelions, etc.) when the blue grama and sideoats grama are dormant in early spring and late fall. Grass should be seeded the year of tree planting when using fabric, or anytime before trees become too crowded for equipment use (4 to 8 years of age), when fabric is not used.

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Ranking the Shade Tolerance of Forty-five Candidate Groundcovers for Agroforestry Plantings

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Several large-scale screening trials evaluating native and introduced herbaceous ground covers have been conducted in the last half century. Most trials have used shade cloth to evaluate growth of potted plants under moderate shade (45 to 55 percent of full sunlight) similar to what might be found in many agroforestry practices and heavy shade (20 to 30 percent of full sunlight) similar to what might be found in a well managed hardwood forest. It is difficult to compare results from different trials because there are few species in common, variable environments, and different harvesting times. Most of the larger screening trials appear to have included herbaceous forbs and grasses spanning the shade tolerance range from very tolerant to intolerant species. Using data from published and unpublished reports, we determined a percentile value for each species from the most shade intolerant (value = 0) to most shade tolerant (value = 100) within each screening trial. Percentile values were averaged across multiple screening trials to determine relative ranking of forty-five introduced and native herbaceous forbs and grasses. In general, cool-season forages tend to be more shade tolerant than warm-season forages with some exceptions such as eastern gama grass and the native tickclovers.

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