Silvopasture Pilot Project in Lancaster County, PA

Project Overview

LNE20-405R
Project Type: Research Only
Funds awarded in 2020: $88,563.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2023
Grant Recipients: Chesapeake Bay Foundation; Crow & Berry Land Management
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Molly Cheatum
Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Information Products

CBF Fall Newsletter 2020 (Article/Newsletter/Blog)

Commodities

  • Fruits: persimmon
  • Additional Plants: trees

Practices

  • Crop Production: silvopasture
  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer, mentoring, networking, on-farm/ranch research, technical assistance

    Proposal abstract:

    Problem, Novel Approach and Justification 

    CBF is looking afresh at an ancient practice that has seemingly dropped from common useSilvopasture offers an opportunity to improve animal comfort and performance, protect environmental resources, create more appealing landscapes, and diversify farm resources and income. Many landowners can perceive these benefits, however, managing these landscapes simultaneously for healthy trees, forage, and livestock is a challenge. In addition to the added complexity is the lack of information on how to design with trees to compliment the farm, and how to effectively get trees established in working pastures.  

    Information on designing silvopasture for farmers needswithin their budget and within the context of their landscape is lacking. To achieve the real economic and ecological benefits that come from silvopasture, it is imperative to develop a much more cost-effective means of tree establishment. 

    Hypothesis or Question and Research Plan 

    Question: How to get productive trees established in active pastures given predation and livestock damage, with limited financial resources and different types of forage and soils? 

    Eight tree-planting methods will be tested on 5 farms. Each farm will plant 30 bareroot trees/acre on 4 acres –  total of 600 trees 20 acres. A baseline will be conducted on each farm, with 4 randomly collected samples for soil measuring micronutrients, infiltration, carbon, organic matter, and forage identification plots. These tests will be done once in April 2020 and once in April 2023. Survival rates, tree height and caliper, damage to trees will be recorded over 3 years in the Spring of each year while conducting maintenance.  

    Additionally, costs of each method will be tracked: 1) Site preparation (equipment, labor, and cost of herbicide) 2) Seedling cost 3) Labor associated with planting; and 4) Fencing, metal and plastic shelters, and mulch materials. All these factors will be considered to determine the relative cost-effectiveness of each method and allow farmers to weigh which methods will best fit their context. 

    Outreach Plan 

    We will work with the farmers and share their motivations, experiences, challenges and successes over the three years through video. We will compile a series of how-to educational videos that will provide support and help guide decisions for other farmers interested in this practice. We will also conduct annual pasture walks, three over the grant period, to encourage farmer-to-farmer education and connections.  

    Project Objective 

    This project will test 8 different establishment techniques of bareroot trees in pasture on 5 farms over 3 years, tracking cost and survival rates, establishing a baseline for soilforage quality and types, and comparing results. This information will inform producers on how best to begin integrating silvopasture into their farm systems.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    Silvopasture is a unique but underused integration of trees within a farm system. Most farmers recognize the benefits of trees for livestock but are not aware of how to establish cost-effectivelyThis project will test 8 establishment techniques of trees in pasture on 5 farms over 3 years, tracking cost, survival rates, establishing a baseline for soilforage quality and typesand comparing results. This will inform producers on how best to begin integrating silvopasture. 

    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.