Performance of Various Forage Combinations Under Thinned Pine Canopies in North Florida

Project Overview

Project Type: On-Farm Research
Funds awarded in 2003: $14,982.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2006
Region: Southern
State: Florida
Principal Investigator:

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Additional Plants: trees


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Crop Production: agroforestry, forestry, nutrient cycling, tissue analysis
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, feasibility study
  • Natural Resources/Environment: habitat enhancement, wildlife
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems
  • Soil Management: soil analysis, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, partnerships


    Open pasture produced more forage annually (17,200 kg/ha in 2005) than any of the two silvopastoral systems studied. Similarly, the double tree-row silvopasture outperformed scattered tree silvopasture by 2,000 kg/ha dry matter yield, totaling 13,650 kg/ha in 2005. Adding ryegrass and crimson clover to forage plots significantly increased annual forage production for each added species. However, adding a second clover species did not produce further yield increases. Seasonal weighed forage quality indices were not affected by either tree canopy treatments, nor by forage species/varieties employed. Average tree volume was greater in the silvopastures than conventionally 5th row thinned pine plantation.


    Silvopasture is an intentional integration of trees, improved forages and livestock into one management system (Sharrow 1999, Sharrow and Ismail 2004). Formerly known as tree-pasture or pine-pasture, silvopasture is one of several agroforestry practices steadily gaining popularity in the southeastern U.S. (Bendfeldt et al. 2001, Grado et al. 2001, Husak and Grado 2002, Workman et al. 2003). Well-managed silvopasture can improve cash flow of small family farm operations (e.g. Dangerfield and Harwell 1990) and provide many environmental benefits (Nowak and Blount 2002). Silvopastures are usually established by planting trees in existing pastures with enough open space left between the rows of trees to allow for forage production (Grado et al. 2001, Husak and Grado 2002). However, these tree-forage-livestock systems can also be established after commercial thinnings of pine plantations (Clason 1995, Clason 1999). Abundance of mid-rotation age pine plantations in the South creates ample opportunity for such conversions to take place.

    We tested suitability of several forage combinations for silvopasture establishment after pine plantation thinning. Of particular interests were varieties of bahiagrass, ryegrass, crimson and red clovers. Tested forage varieties were grown in two different silvopastures under different tree canopy conditions created by thinning of 18-year old loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L) stands. Forage yield and quality results obtained in silvopastures were compared with performance of the same forage varieties grown in open pasture. The goal of this study was to identify a forage combination yielding the highest amount and quality of animal feed under thinned 18-year-old loblolly pine canopies in North Florida. In addition, we were interested in tree growth and crown characteristics in two silvopastoral systems created by thinning compared with the same tree characteristics in conventionally 5th row thinned pine plantation. The results of this study are applicable in those parts of the Southeast where soil and climatic conditions are similar to these in North Florida.

    Project objectives:

    • Evaluate effects of tree canopy configuration and forage species and variety composition on monthly, seasonal and yearly forage yield and quality obtained in two silvopastoral systems with those obtained for the same forage species and variety combinations in open pasture.

      Compare tree growth and tree crown characteristics in two silvopastoral systems with those obtained for conventionally 5th row thinned pine plantation.

    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.