Bioeconomic assessment of an alley cropping field trial in North Carolina, U.S.: Tree density, timber production, and forage relationships

  • Authors: Dunn, Kenneth; Unruh Snyder, Lori; McCarter, James; Frey, Gregory; Idassi, Joshua; Schnake, David; Cubbage, Frederick
  • Publication Year: 2021
  • Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
  • Source: Sustainability
  • DOI: 10.3390/su132011465

Abstract

Silvopasture, the combination of trees, forage, and livestock, is a management practice that is gaining interest throughout the southeastern U.S. This research analyzed a hay-based alley cropping field trial that is transitioning into a silvopasture system. We planted four different tree spacings—2.4 × 2.4 m, 2.4 × 3.0 m, 3.0 × 3.0 m, and 1.8 × 3.0 m (8 × 8 ft, 8 × 10 ft, 10 × 10ft, and 6 × 10 ft)—of loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) and used secondary data for the possible planting of two different grass species—big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii Vitman) and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.). Tree inventories, forage samples, biometric modeling, and economic analysis of forage and timber monocultures and mixed systems were analyzed with discounted cash flow and capital budgeting analyses. Tree growth on the pasture site was exceptionally fast, generating high projected returns for timber monocultures, which exceeded returns for monoculture grass crops. Projected timber stand returns had the greatest Net Present Values (NPV) at the 4% discount rate, ranging between USD 3196 and USD 3552 per ha (USD 1294 and USD 1438 per ac) for a 2.4 × 3.0 m or 2.4 × 2.4 m tree spacing yield. Representative grass yields were obtained from secondary sources
and had lower productivity, with switchgrass having the highest returns at USD 2581 per ha (USD 1045 per ac). Optimal NPVs for mixed silvopasture stands ranged between about USD 1500 per ha and USD 3500 per ha (USD 600/ac and USD 1400/ac), depending on the tree spacing within bands, the alley spacing, and the degree of competition between trees and grasses.

  • Citation: Dunn, Kenneth; Unruh Snyder, Lori; McCarter, James; Frey, Gregory; Idassi, Joshua; Schnake, David; Cubbage, Frederick. 2021. Bioeconomic assessment of an alley cropping field trial in North Carolina, U.S.: Tree density, timber production, and forage relationships. Sustainability. 13(20): 11465-. https://doi.org/10.3390/su132011465.
  • Keywords: Alley cropping, silvopasture, agroforestry, trees, forage, economic analysis, capital budgeting, North Carolina
  • Posted Date: October 18, 2021
  • Modified Date: October 18, 2021
  • Print Publications Are No Longer Available

    In an ongoing effort to be fiscally responsible, the Southern Research Station (SRS) will no longer produce and distribute hard copies of our publications. Many SRS publications are available at cost via the Government Printing Office (GPO). Electronic versions of publications may be downloaded, printed, and distributed.

    Publication Notes

    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.
    • Our online publications are scanned and captured using Adobe Acrobat. During the capture process some typographical errors may occur. Please contact the SRS webmaster if you notice any errors which make this publication unusable.
    • To view this article, download the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader.