Made in the Shade - Using Silvopasture Research and On-farm Demonstrations to Advance These Sustainable Agroforestry Systems

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2013: $190,000.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2017
Region: Southern
State: Virginia
Principal Investigator:
John Fike
school of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Va Tech

Annual Reports


Not commodity specific


  • Animal Production: animal protection and health, feed/forage, grazing management, rangeland/pasture management
  • Crop Production: agroforestry, silvopasture
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems

    Proposal abstract:

    Silvopasture systems offer great opportunity to address several production and  environmental issues at once. These systems can increase productivity and resource use efficiencies in pasture systems and can greatly improve the value of timber stands in woodlots that traditionally are poorly managed. Silvopastures also can mitigate stress to grazing livestock, buffering animals and forages alike from climatic extremes. A further benefit is the opportunity to improve environmental outcomes, because trees can capture nutrients lost from cool-season forages and because the stress mitigation for livestock can reduce their use of streams and surface waters for evaporative cooling. Adoption of  silvopasture management in part is limited because producers lack information regarding their design, management, productivity, and economic impact – and they have few places to view its implementation. Other reasons – whether cultural, economic or other (e.g., limited land tenure in rental situations) – bear further exploration. To address these needs and to further the ADOPTION of sustainable agricultural systems, this proposal will conduct social science research to identify perceptions of silvopastures held by a broad swath of the producer and technical service provider communities; it will address key biophysical questions being asked by early-adopters and service providers; and, it will couple knowledge gained from the surveys and biophysical research (at research and extension centers and at on-farm sites) to develop demonstration and training programs. Educational programs will be built around establishment studies at research sites (adding trees to pastures or thinning trees from a low-value timber stand), on-farm demonstrations on leading-edge producer farms (where silvopastures recently have been implemented), and development of  silvopastures on underserved limited resource farms. Existing networks for new producers and small farms will be used to share information about findings and outreach efforts. This project will provide direct research and educational support both to established and limited resource farmers while promoting sustainable production systems across scales. And, it will meet expressed needs of farmers and service providers both by demonstrating these practices in research and production settings and by generating data on biological and economic performance of these systems.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    For the social research components of this proposal, we will:
    1 – Create and use surveys to study adoption of silvopasture practices among producers and technical service providers. Data generated from survey responses will be used to develop outreach programs.

    For biological and economic research, we will:
    2 – Determine suitable forage establishment practices for “forest to silvopasture” establishment; and, trees establishment practices for success of hardwood-based “trees into pastures” silvopastures;
    3 – Quantify animal and pasture productivity in ~20-year-old, deciduous silvopastures; and,
    4 – Couple the establishment information with tree, forage, and livestock production data to estimate the economic value of silvopasture systems

    To demonstrate and encourage adoption of these systems we will:
    5 – Use research center and on-farm field days to showcase silvopasture management practices and partner with beginning and small farmer and environmental networks and technical services providers to promote these sustainable systems.
    6 – Develop web-based delivery tools to disseminate technical and budgeting information to producer and agency communities and create an application that can model developing silvopastures for producers on their farms.

    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.