This topic probably should have been discussed at the forum’s inception in 2011, but better late than never :)


Two recent articles in the February, 2018 Stockman Grass Farmer covered many good reasons for adding trees in to grazing areas – or grazing areas in to trees. But interestingly, neither author used the words “silvopastures” or “silvopasturing”. Maybe it’s just a case of you say to-mae-tos and I’ll say to-mah-tos, but it got me to thinking about what an unfamiliar word “silvopasturing” is.


At the 2011 Northeast Silvopasture Conference, I issued a general challenge for someone to come up with a better name for silvopasturing… no one did (not just a “better” name, but any name). My colleague Joe Orefice has correctly pointed out that silvopasturing is the internationally-recognized name for the agroforestry practice of growing trees, forages and livestock together in a synergistic, symbiotic and sustainable system. So the terminology is correct, but what good is that if it sounds awkward, confusing or meaningless to most?


Perhaps one of the more significant barriers to expanding silvopasturing is that the very name doesn’t resonate with potential practitioners (unless maybe you’re a silviculturalist – a.k.a. “forester”, like Joe and myself), much less with others who we would like to be supportive of our endeavors (think: government agencies). Unfortunately, “woodland grazing” – though a more descriptive term that would paint a reasonably accurate picture in the minds of most – is what we’ve been trying to distance ourselves from. For a good discussion of the differences between silvopasturing vs. woodland grazing, read Joe’s and John Carroll’s paper in the Journal of Forestry: http://silvopasture.ning.com/profiles/blogs/new-publication-1


In the previously mentioned SGF articles, both authors used the term “savanna” (or, if you’re from the rest of the English-speaking world: “savannah”) to describe the silvopastoral landscapes on their farms. Savanna is another descriptive term which would evoke a somewhat accurate image in the minds of non-silvopastoralists - but a silvopasture is not a savanna. It would, however, be correct to say that silvopastures are savanna-like ecosystems. At the risk of setting off a lengthy discussion (sometimes known as an argument), I would contend that the main difference between a silvopasture and savanna is that silvopastures are intentionally created and managed for the production of timber and livestock outputs. Savannas, or their sub-arctic counterparts – the taigas – are not (unless perhaps you’re a gazelle or reindeer grazier). But their appearances could be similar. Silvopastures and silvopasturing, however, can take many shapes and forms (http://silvopasture.ning.com/profiles/blogs/photo-guide-to-northeas...). For some other good distinguishing characteristics of what constitutes a silvopasture: https://ext.vt.edu/content/dam/ext_vt_edu/topics/agriculture/silvop...

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Thanks for starting this conversation Brett.  The book by Franz Vera; Grazing Ecology and Forest History provides a really interesting hypothesis that postulates large ungulate browsing impacts as a dominant driver in forest successional pathways and patch mosaic patterns at a landscape level; even in temperate hardwood regions of western and central Europe with very similar ecotypes to our own.

Vera's "donut hole" theory of forest plant colonization and expansion within a patchy mosaic of forest, grasslands, and scrub-shrub habitats (and I'm assuming all the transitional stages between the three thrown in) is an interesting "split the difference" hypotheses between Clements "primieval/steady state" ideas and Gleason's "plant communities are what plant communities can be; no real rhyme or reason to it"  both of course, which grew out of essentially the same data set gleaned from the prehistoric polynological record.

Vera revisits this data set and compares it to current continuously grazed "walds" in western Europe supporting free ranging herds of cattle and horses and finds some striking similarities. 

Not quite a true "savannah" except here and there at a microsite/patch level. . . and definitely not a "silvopasture" as we currently or in past history have practiced it. . . but suggests at least some evidence that at a landscape level, woody and grass dominated communities are likely to split about half and half under high levels of large ungulate browsing over the long term with or without a fire regime to sustain the grass component or patches.  In the "New World". . . fire regimes were no doubt also a significant factor and may have increased the acres of true "hardwood savannahs" even here in the east in our more fertile soil areas and where more sedentary/agrarian indigenous tribes were the primary landscape "tenders."

I personally like the term "silvopasture" as to me it is simply the intentional husbandry of grass and woody plants by humans at small spatial scales.  It builds off of what we know or can deduce about nature's processes without thinking we can mimic or duplicate them given the economic and cultural constraints impacting practitioner decisions.  But I think there is sound ecological evidence that it is both sustainable. . . and about as "natural" as any other agricultural or silvicultural method we are currently employing.

RB
 
Edmund Brown said:

Hold your horses! I talked about this with my wife last night and she suggested we consider "Arbor pasture" (or perhaps some elision of the two - arbopasture, arborasture, arbasture, etc). She thought it would be obscure enough that I'd still get time to explain what I mean when I drop it, but that more people would have some sort of conception that Arbors have to do with trees. She thinks "silvo" and "sylvan" are more unusual sounding than "arbor". 

My preference is still for 'silvopasture', because I like the way it rolls off the tongue, and the pedant in me recoils when there is a perfectly good word for something (silvopasture) and people feel the need to either coin a neologism or go use other words that are less precise or have other meanings (savanna). Another example, "he gifted it to me", rather than "gave".

Silvopasture is still winning, but "arbasture", "arbasturing" and "arbastoralists" do have a nice ring :)

They called it "silvo-pasture" at the 2016 "World Congress Silvo-Pastoral Systems". Just to bring in an international thought to this conversation. 

so europeanesque

anyone for "gladegrazing"?

I really want to read that book you cite, Roy!

I recently re-read Meat a Benign Extravagance by Simon Fairlie and he draws heavily from Vera's work in one of the chapters. Amazon has Grazing Ecology and Forest History, but it is quite expensive... trying my libraries now...

Roy Brubaker said:

Thanks for starting this conversation Brett.  The book by Franz Vera; Grazing Ecology and Forest History provides a really interesting hypothesis that postulates large ungulate browsing impacts as a dominant driver in forest successional pathways and patch mosaic patterns at a landscape level; even in temperate hardwood regions of western and central Europe with very similar ecotypes to our own.

Vera's "donut hole" theory of forest plant colonization and expansion within a patchy mosaic of forest, grasslands, and scrub-shrub habitats (and I'm assuming all the transitional stages between the three thrown in) is an interesting "split the difference" hypotheses between Clements "primieval/steady state" ideas and Gleason's "plant communities are what plant communities can be; no real rhyme or reason to it"  both of course, which grew out of essentially the same data set gleaned from the prehistoric polynological record.

Vera revisits this data set and compares it to current continuously grazed "walds" in western Europe supporting free ranging herds of cattle and horses and finds some striking similarities. 

Not quite a true "savannah" except here and there at a microsite/patch level. . . and definitely not a "silvopasture" as we currently or in past history have practiced it. . . but suggests at least some evidence that at a landscape level, woody and grass dominated communities are likely to split about half and half under high levels of large ungulate browsing over the long term with or without a fire regime to sustain the grass component or patches.  In the "New World". . . fire regimes were no doubt also a significant factor and may have increased the acres of true "hardwood savannahs" even here in the east in our more fertile soil areas and where more sedentary/agrarian indigenous tribes were the primary landscape "tenders."

I personally like the term "silvopasture" as to me it is simply the intentional husbandry of grass and woody plants by humans at small spatial scales.  It builds off of what we know or can deduce about nature's processes without thinking we can mimic or duplicate them given the economic and cultural constraints impacting practitioner decisions.  But I think there is sound ecological evidence that it is both sustainable. . . and about as "natural" as any other agricultural or silvicultural method we are currently employing.

RB
 
Edmund Brown said:

Hold your horses! I talked about this with my wife last night and she suggested we consider "Arbor pasture" (or perhaps some elision of the two - arbopasture, arborasture, arbasture, etc). She thought it would be obscure enough that I'd still get time to explain what I mean when I drop it, but that more people would have some sort of conception that Arbors have to do with trees. She thinks "silvo" and "sylvan" are more unusual sounding than "arbor". 

My preference is still for 'silvopasture', because I like the way it rolls off the tongue, and the pedant in me recoils when there is a perfectly good word for something (silvopasture) and people feel the need to either coin a neologism or go use other words that are less precise or have other meanings (savanna). Another example, "he gifted it to me", rather than "gave".

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