Trees and livestock together: silvopasture research and application for Virginia farms
Silvopasture is the intentional combination of trees, forage, and livestock on a parcel of land to optimize multiple outputs and has been shown to have benefits for production in various parts of the world. There is strong interest in silvopasture in the Southern United States, likely driven by multiple motivations. However, silvopasture practices have not been adopted or studies widely in Virginia or surrounding states, and lack of familiarity and information is a key hurdle to adoption. Potential adopters need research in order to make sound establishment and management decisions, but researchers typically need a reasonable pool of adopters to justify the expense of research studies. Still, a team of scientists and neighboring states has pooled resources to move forward with research on establishment methods, biophysical interactions, economics, and perceptions of stakeholders. One small research site began in Western Virginia in 1995, but since 2012, the effort has expanded to include new research and extension sites in other partss of the state, outreach and support to farmers interested in establishing parcels on their land, and training surveying of technical service providers. We will present preliminary results and practical considerations gleaned from these early activities.