Tree Selection Guide for Mid-Atlantic Silvopastures
Beegle, Dana Kirley
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Silvopasture is a farming practice that intentionally combines trees, forages, and livestock grazing for the purpose of increasing overall productivity. Although silvopasture in the United States has historically been concentrated in the southeast, it holds great promise in the Mid-Atlantic region as well. However, lack of research specific to silvopasture in this region, has kept adoption rates low. Landowners interested in silvopasture need information to encourage adoption and make sound establishment and management decisions. An important management decision for silvopasture establishment is tree selection. First-time adopters (and technical service providers) need resources and information to help them choose the most suitable and most productive species for their site and operation goals. Plant and tree selection tools are widely available for horticulture applications. However, few exist for agroforestry-based systems, and no comprehensive list or selection guide has been developed for silvopasture establishment in the Mid-Atlantic region specifically. This project seeks to fill that void. To begin this project, I used a variety of horticulture- and forestry-based information sources to research trees native to the Mid-Atlantic region. For each tree, I collected information that we identified as having the greatest relevance to silvopasture establishment including site preferences (pH, soil moisture, and hardiness zone), ability to tolerate site and weather extremes (heat/drought, flood, shade, and wind/ice), physical characteristics (crown features, root structure, growth rate, and mature height), potential utility (markets, fodder and coppice potential, rate of CO2 sequestration, and other benefits), and maintenance needs (pest/disease issues). From this body of information, we selected a diverse group of 20 trees that are highly suitable and productive for silvopasture in this region based on crown characteristics, rooting patters, and growth rate; while offering Mid-Atlantic producers a range of choices for various site conditions and operation goals. This information is presented in a quick-reference chart that can be used in the field or office by landowners and technical service professionals. It includes a brief description of how to use this chart as well as guidance on source and availability of plant material. This is our Tree Selection Guide for Mid-Atlantic Silvopastures. Our hope is that this list of 20 trees will be expanded over time to include more species and perhaps become available as an online or phone-based selection tool.