Evaluating the Efficacy of Contour-Based Silvopasture Plantings with Grassed Terraces for Water Retention

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2024: $19,275.00
Projected End Date: 02/28/2027
Grant Recipient: Still Wagon Farm
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Dylan Heagy
Still Wagon Farm


  • Additional Plants: trees


  • Crop Production: agroforestry, contour farming, silvopasture, terraces
  • Natural Resources/Environment: grass waterways
  • Production Systems: permaculture

    Proposal summary:

    This project aims to advance our understanding of optimal design
    and establishment of silvopasture systems within existing open
    pastures in the Northeast United States. We aim to investigate
    and compare two distinct planting methodologies: contour-based
    planting with grassed water terraces and traditional
    straight-line planting. This comparative study will focus on tree
    growth, survival, and soil conservation benefits, providing
    valuable insights into the most effective silvopasture designs
    for the region.

    Our approach includes setting up and closely monitoring
    experimental plots, using precise data collection techniques to
    assess tree health and soil quality over several growing seasons.
    The project will also evaluate the ease of implementation and
    cost-effectiveness of each method, addressing a significant
    challenge faced by many small to medium-scale farmers in the
    Northeast: the lack of accessible irrigation resources for tree
    establishment. Outreach efforts will play a pivotal role,
    involving the dissemination of our findings through workshops,
    online resources, and collaborations with agricultural
    organizations. By offering practical, evidence-based
    recommendations, this project seeks to empower farmers with the
    knowledge and tools necessary to implement efficient and
    sustainable silvopasture systems, thus promoting ecological
    resilience and economic sustainability in agricultural practices.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The objectives of this project are:

    1. Evaluate Tree Mortality Rates: Compare the
      effectiveness of contour-based planting with grassed water
      terraces against traditional planting methods in terms of
      tree survival rates over multiple growing seasons.

    2. Evaluate Tree Growth Rates: Compare the
      effectiveness of contour-based planting with grassed water
      terraces against traditional planting methods in terms of
      tree growth rates over multiple growing seasons.
    3. Assess Soil Conservation Benefits: Measure
      and analyze the impact of each planting method on soil
      health, including erosion control and water retention

    4. Determine Cost-Effectiveness and
      : Evaluate the feasibility, labor
      requirements, and financial implications of each planting
      method to determine the most cost-effective and practical
      approach for farmers in the Northeast United States.

    These objectives are designed to provide clear, measurable
    outcomes that will contribute useful information for farmers,
    aiding in the development of more sustainable farming practices
    through improved silvopasture techniques.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.