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Agroforestry Overview Silvopasture Alley Cropping Pasture Supplement Wind Breaks Water Management Propagation Forage Trees Beneficial Trees, Shrubs, and Vines

Agroforestry Overview:

Agroforestry can be used to restore the balance and fertily of an ecosystem and increase profitabilty. Below are some examples:

Dr. Miguel Altieri - ecological farms
Sustainable agriculture on the Loess Plateau
EverGreen agriculture in Africa
Diversity of ecoagriculture in Africa
Cornell - Agroforestry
Steve Gabriel - silvopasture sequesters carbon
Mark Shepard on Restoration Agriculture
Badgersett - woody agriculture efficiency
Historic Agroforestry
University of Missouri - forest crop diversity
Perennial Solutions - nitrogen fixers ranked

Do not plant trees in monocultures. Mixed plantings will help strengthen trees and reduce disease. Below is a link to guilds of trees which work well together based on environmental conditions.

Tree and Bush Guilds


Silvopasture can actually increase productivity by increasing nitrogen levels with trees like Italian Alder, Birch, sterile Paulownia, sterile Black Locust, etc. Fertile varieties can be used and then use pollarding to prevent seeding. The trees need to be tall and strong to resist cattle.

Nut, legume, and pollen trees can increase the productivity of the land and they can also be grown for timber; Walnut, Chestnut, Heartnut, Pecan, Hickory, acorn Oak, Honey Locust, Scots Pine, etc.

Living Web Farms - cold climate silvopasture
VTForages - Silvopasture with Honeylocust
Forest Connect - Silvopasture with Honeylocust
Mark Shepard - silvopasture
KYForages - shade benefits animals

Alley Cropping:

Coppiced trees and shrubs can be used in alley cropping for fixing nitrogen from the atmosphere, making potassium available through coppicing and wood chipping, improving field drainage, providing beneficial insect habitat, wind breaks, etc. They can be mixed with habitat plants where coppicing is used to keep the strip narrow and short.

Trees / shrubs that fix nitrogen are ideal candidates; Alder, Birch bush, Paulownia, Black Locust, Siberian Pea Shrub, Silverscape, Seaberry, Buffaloberry, Alderleaf Buckthorn, etc. Most of them will sucker, so consider low sucker varieties and trim aggressively every year. Some can become invasive. Grow small experimental plots to test these species in your environment. It can even be useful to have a paddock of high nitrogen trees that can be grazed during the heat of the summer slump.

Trees that sucker

They can be coppiced to reduce competition with the primary crop for light, prevent production of seed, prevent invasiveness, etc. Coppicing trees will automatically cause the roots to die back which prevents competition with the primary crop and releases nitrogen. Some of these trees/shrubs will give meat and milk a bad flavor if foraged by cattle.

Basal shoots, suckers, and even epicormic shoots can be encouraged by over pruning a tree. Once suckering starts, then it is safer to cut the main trunk since you know what the lowest point is that you can reduce it to in preparation for coppicing. Pinching young sprouts early can also help prepare them for coppicing.

SARE - Tree varieties for alley crops
University of Missouri - alley cropping
USDA - alley cropping
US Forest Service - agroforestry mitigates extreme weather events
Agroforestry - improves micro-climate
Agroforestry in Europe

Pasture Supplement:

Coppicing can be used to keep fodder accessable for animals as a complement to pasture. Low nitrogen edible trees should be grown such as poplar, aspen, linden, elm, ash, mulberry, beech, willow, sugar maple, etc. If you have adaptable animals, then low nitrogen suckering shrubs are ideal for coppicing annually to supplement pasture; hazelnut, honeysuckle, rose, broom, brambles, etc.

Suckering is ideal for coppicing

Basal shoots, suckers, and even epicormic shoots can be encouraged by over pruning a tree. Once suckering starts, then it is safer to cut the main trunk since you know what the lowest point is that you can reduce it to in preparation for coppicing. Pinching young sprouts early can also help prepare them for coppicing.

Coppiced low nitrogen trees can be used as high carbon forage in the early spring when grass is too lush from excess nitrogen. This can reduce the need for hay. Coppiced trees / shrubs are also more drought resistant than most other forages.

Increase forage with trees
Steve Gabriel - tree fodder
Steve Gabriel - silvopasture fodder
Tree fodder
MOFGA - elm, ash, linden, locust, willow, poplar
United Diversity - elm, mulberry, elderberry, ash
New Zealand - poplar, willow
Researchgate - poplar, willow
Scientific Research - paulownia 
Agricology - elm, ash 
Semantic Scholar - poplar, elm, osage orange 
Utah State - aspen
Semantic Scholar - pg 93; low tannin trees

In warmer regions, the species of high nitrogen trees is completely different.

Warm climate tree fodder 
Leucaena Network 
Leucaena invasive controls 
Tagasaste Management 

Wind Breaks:

Evergreen windbreaks are most useful around cattle pastures to provide wind protection during the winter. White Cedar and Blue Spruce are especially good winter wind breaks in very cold winter climates. Evergreens should not be browsed by cattle as they will impart a bad flavor. Some cedar, juniper, and hawthorn can contribute to apple rust. Cyprus or bamboo are better for hot regions.

Temperate Evergreen Windbreaks
Kansas State
Morton Arboretum
Plants Beautiful Nursery - evergreen
Purdue - Juniper and Cedar diseases
University of Florida
Forestry - Snowdrift
USDA - Snowdrift

Water Management:

Use permaculture and silvopasture techniques to create micro-habitats. Use swales, berms, ditches, dry wells, etc. to control flooding and droughts. Plant trees and shrubs that are both fairly water and drought tolerant on the downside of the berm where drought tolerance is not as important and roots can grow under the berm to help secure it. On top of the berm, plant extremely drought tolerant native grasses, legumes, and forbs. Do not plant trees or bushes on the top of berms as their mature weight will eventually cause the berm to sink.

John D. Liu - Green Gold
Mark Shepard - restoration agriculture
Berms and Swales
Water and soil erosion in Wisconsin
Soil erosion in Africa

Trees, shrubs, and vines which are the most tolerant of waterlogged soil are described in the links below. They should be planted down hill below berms.

The most water tolerant are Black Willow, Serviceberry, American Persimmon, and Cottonwood. One advantage of swales and berms is that the water should naturally be very well oxygenated so plants have a better chance of long term flood tolerance.

Moderately flood tolerant includes Honey Locust, Mulberry, Blueberry, Pecan, Tulip Tree, Seaberry, Aronia, Elderberry, Blackberry, Honey Berry, Raspberry, Ginkgo, Cranberry, Cornelian Cherry, Viburnum, Redbud, Paw Paw, Hickory, etc.

Elderberry is especially useful in riparian areas, since it is a nitrogen accumulator. It can be used to absorb nitrogen as it leeches off the land.

USDA Forest Service - water tolerance
Iowa State - water tolerance
Penn State - water tolerance

Clemson - water tolerance
Univ Tennessee - trees that tolerate waterlogged soils
Australian trees that tolerate Waterlogged soils
Iowa State - trees that tolerate Waterlogged soils
Michigan State - water tolerant trees

Some of the trees and shrubs will need to be shade tolerant or prefer afternoon shade. Some of the more shade tolerant varieties are persimmon, serviceberry, paw paw, aronia, winterbloom, Viburnum, redbud, chokeberry, hops, cornelian cherry, currant, blackberry, raspberry, seaberry, sassafras, etc.

Penn State - shade tolerance
Univ of Minnesota - share tolerance


See propagation section

Forage Trees:

All of these trees can be coppiced or pollarded.


Willow (Salix spp.):

(Point of origin: Europe, Western Asia) Advantages: Leaf forage. Roots can go deep so leaf is mineral rich. Reproduces from rhizomes. Some varieties are ideal for planting near berms: Salix nigra - very tolerant of water Salix alba - somewhat tolerant of water Salix bebbiana, exigua, interior, scouleriana - flood and drought tolerant Disadvantages: Roots can invade water pipes. Information: Wikipedia University of Connecticut Canadian Journal of Botany: P. nigra - drought resistance Drought tolerant willows - bebbiana, exigua, interior, scouleriana USDA: Intermountain browsing willows for uplands - scouleriana Willow *******

Cottonwood (Populus spp.):

(Point of origin: North America) Advantages: Only moderately tolerant of drought. Some varieties are ideal for planting near berms: Populus deltoides - somewhat tolerant of water Disadvantages: Black Poplar is toxic Information: Poplar is the source of bee propalis Oxford Journals USDA - Black Cottonwood Populus fremontii Zapata - drought tolerant Forest Service - Cottonwood *******

Alder (Alnus sp.):

(Point of origin: North America and Europe ) Advantages: Very good nitrogen fixer, uses Frankia. Young sprouts are excellant for all cattle. Depending on species and water conditions, roots can be shallow or deep. Most varieties are water tolerant, but Italian Alder is drought tolerant. Disadvantages: Catkins used as food by moths, but can also be used as food for domestic animals. New sprouts are easily overgrazed. Information: Wikipedia - Alnus sp. Alder - cross mycorrhizal species Alder - few shared networks *******

Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides):

(Point of origin: North America ) Advantages: Excellant for sheep and certain cattle such as Highland, Galloway, Hereford. Heavy suckering tree so tolerates grazing. Roots can go deep so leaf is mineral rich. Disadvantages: Easily over grazed. Information: Aspen Wiki ********

Paulownia (Paulownia sp.):

Advantages: High nitrogen fixation. Fast growing. Drought tolerant. Excellent to strengthen hedgrows or for alley cropping. Disadvantages: Most Paulownia are very invasive. There are sterile selections which will not be invasive. Only hardy to zone 5. Host for Witches Broom. Best in dry conditions. Coppice in spring to avoid freeze damage Information: Paulownia agricultural use in China Paulownia booklet Diseases of Paulownia - best in dry conditions Paulownia - animal feed Paulownia - nutrition *******

Linden or Basswood (Tilia americana):

(Point of origin: North America ) Advantages: Edible leaves Cattle find it very attractive Can be coppiced. Disadvantages: Butt rot Information: University of Kentucky - Linden used for cattle fodder USDA - high quality honey TCPermaculture - dynamic accumulator Heart damage: Can cause heart damage. UTEP - herbal safety Mount Sinai - linden WebMD - linden tea

Beneficial Trees, Bushes, and Vines:

Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia):

Advantages: High nitrogen fixation. Excellent to strengthen hedgrows. Fast growing. Very cold hardy. Disadvantages: Toxic to horses. Invasive. Small seed. Can overshade other species. Shipmast strain is mostly sterile. Information: Woodpeckers and wheelbugs are natural enemies of borers. Shipmast variety - mostly sterile Shipmast is borer resistant USDA - nitrogen fixation USDA - interplanting discourages pests Source: Edible Acres - Shipmast Black Locust *********

Birch (Betula pendula):

Advantages: Nitrogen fixation Suckers Disadvantages: Not drought tolerant Only coppice every 3-4 years Information: USDA - frankia fixes nitrogen frankia on birch exudates frankia under birch Aids pines *********

Silverscape (Elaeagnus angustifolia x E. commutata):

Advantages: High nitrogen fixation. Drought tolerant. Very cold hardy. Excellent to strenthen hedgrows. Coppice early to stimulate nitrogen fixation. Disadvantages: Most Elaeangus sp. (such as autumn olive) are very invasive. Silverscape appears to be a sterile hybrid which should not be invasive. Information: Jefferies Nursery USDA trials *********

Buffalo Berry (Shepherdia argentia):

Advantages: Medium nitrogen fixation. Very cold hardy. Disadvantages: Contains saponin. Non suckering Information: USDA - contains saponin ********

Hops (Humulus lupulus):

(Point of origin: Northern hemisphere) Properties: Produces acids that are antibiotic and insecticidal. Useful against honey bee varoa mite. Varieties: For high beta acids grow Southern Cross, Mt. Hood, or Pride of Kent. Variety descriptions Growing horizontally: University of Kentucky Yield drops but sometimes quality rises Information: Wikipedia Organic *********

Willowwood Viburnum ( Viburnum rhytidophylloides x V. lantanaphyllum )

Properties: If managed properly, blooms in spring and again in the fall. Mulch heavily, full sun, never use nitrogen fertilizer. Fall blooms are especially attractive to beneficials. Information: FloriData - Willowwood Missouri Botanical Garden - Willowwood *********

Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera)

Properties: In moist regions grows well to zone 5. Some cultivars have large amounts of nectar in their blossoms. Very attractive to parasitics. Information: Tulip Tree <\pre>
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