Invasive plants threaten native forests. While some livestock (e.g. goats) are known to keep them at bay, they also graze indiscriminately—eating invasive species and native hardwoods alike. Manual removal of invasive plants is laborious. Absent any meaningful use for invasive plants, the chore often goes undone. Why cut honeysuckle bush if the lumber is useless?
This project will put invasive plants to agricultural use, hence we are calling it systematic “harvesting” not merely removing. Indiana’s DNR forestry department will identify targeted species for removal. We will cut and remove plants weekly, bring them to the goat pasture for a week of free-choice forage, then chip and store for bedding.
Chips will bed goats and chickens, creating two different compost profiles of varying nitrogen density. The soiled bedding will be removed as needed and composted. Lab tests will measure the density of nutrients. Compost will be introduced as soil amendment to vegetable production the following year. Special care will be taken to monitor for much-feared allelopathic effects of such species.
The first objective is to ascribe appreciable value to an otherwise useless timber, giving farmers a reason to control it. Secondarily, conducting the project on a highly-trafficked suburban farm will expose consumers to sustainable agriculture and natural resource management.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Control the spread and reduce the presence of invasive species in the 11-acre Certified Forest.
- Demonstrate a valuable agricultural use for invasive forest species as either (a) a supplemental source of roughage for goats, or (b) a valuable dry matter for bedding and later compost, or (c) ideally both.
- Separately record the nutrient value, established by laboratory testing, of compost from both chicken coop flooring and goat pen bedding using chipped wood as dry matter.
- Create an opportunity for over 10,000 households within 2 miles of Mud Creek Farm to learn about sustainable agriculture firsthand.