Silvopasture is the intentional combination trees, forage and livestock managed as a single practice.
This practice diversifies the products of a farm, protecting it from market swings of commodity prices, agricultural policy decisions and from crop failures. This type of farming is particularly beneficial for wildlife. Generally trees improve soil fertility by retaining carbon, increasing soil aeration and improving soil moisture levels
Using rows of trees protects soil from erosion and gives livestock sun protection and shade. If planted to shield the property from the prevailing winds, the protected microclimate can increase the yield of conventional crops. And a well designed shelter belt can act as a windbreak, a snow fence and reduce windchill stress for livestock
When nitrogen fixing trees or shrubs are utilized, the need for fertilizer is reduced or eliminated.
Some trees grow in areas unsuitable for grasses such as poorly drained soils or wet areas. This provides forage for browsing animals that would otherwise require chemicals or drainage to be usable. When livestock are able to browse, they have access to nutrients not otherwise available, improving their health.
Alleycropping is when an agricultural crop is grown simultaneously with a long term tree crop. Fine woods such as oak or walnut are examples of this system. The yield there can be from nuts, and later, once the wood is mature, from the sale of logs for veneers. Farmers that have livestock such as pigs can also bring the pigs in to eat the nuts that fell during harvest. So a well planned and managed system can have significant economic value to the farmer.
I am very much in favour of silvopasture because of its potential to improve the soil and to increase biodiversity. This system is visually beautiful, so we are creating a lovely place to be in. Biodiversity is good for wildlife , good for the soil, food for livestock and good for the farmer.(because of diversification of products and in some cases increased profits) We need to encourage our government and farmers to learn about these systems and implement them the long term benefits to our ecosystems. We need to be implementing systems that will last for millenniums.
Picture creditBy USDA NAC [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Manitoba is where I was born and where I have spent most of the five and one half decades of my life. I lived on the outskirts of the town of Portage La Prairie at a time when tadpoles and frogs inhabited the ditches and ponds, when there were many Monarch butterflies each summer along with dragon flies and grasshoppers. Redwing blackbirds perched the cattails of the ditches. As children we picked dandelions for bouquets and made wishes before blowing dandelion seed heads. We searched clover for lucky four leaves and rolled on the grass…there was no concern of poisonous herbicides. The grass was thick. Wherever we dug…there were earthworms