One of the top "frequently asked questions" is what forages might grow well in silvopastures.  Much has already been posted on this forum (dig around a bit) on this topic.  The short answer is: "it depends", and "more research is needed".  But fortunately, many cool-season forages - particularly grasses, can do quite well in lightly-shaded silvopasture conditions.  But there are many variables that will ultimately influence forage production in silvopastures.  Soil health, site quality, tree species, rainfall, and of course - solar energy reaching the ground level, are just a few examples.  Grazing management will also have a significant influence on forage production in silvopastures, and the manager should keep in mind that more rest and recovery time may be needed between grazings due to lower light & photosynthesis levels.

Plant breeders and seed dealers are starting to take note of the potential for more shade tolerant varieties.  Below is an article recently shared by Kings Agriseed Inc.

Shaded pastures are among the more challenging conditions that many farmers run up against. This is a spectrum of scenarios but often involves a grazier who wants to set up a very intentional form of silvopasture, managing both trees and forage to balance the productivity of both.

To be clear, there is no forage crop you can grow well under full leaf canopy. Plants need sunlight to perform photosynthesis, manufacture sugars, and grow.  Although the ideal balance of needed conditions differs for each plant, there are basic requirements for any plant to thrive.

Depending on the available sunlight, a shady area can result in a thinner stand. The less robust growth will also be less resilient to outside impacts like traffic or overgrazing. Shading reduces height of the forage species that have a naturally upright growth habit, and also leads to less tiller production. However, in shade tolerant species, leaf area and both shoot-to-root and leaf-to-stem ratios may be increased.  With less active cell division and growth, sugars are also apt to concentrate in the plant.

 

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