Shade-tolerant forage seed species and sources?

As I thin some woods and open up some edge lines, I'm hoping to seed some perennial shade-tolerant forages. I'm mainly focused on wildlife at this point (I don't yet own livestock), and hope to get perennial or re-seeding annuals with substantial root mass to break up heavy clay North Carolina soils. Recommendations for species / mixes / seed sources? I've done some preliminary research, but am hesitant to buy mixes without specific input from silvopasture practitioners.

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If wildlife rather than grazing areas for domestic animals is your focus, you need to focus on native biomass rather than non-native biomass, most of which is not usable, or not efficiently usable by wildlife. What wildlife you intend to support should dictate what you plant. People often have a tendency to plant what will grow prolifically and look verdant without consideration for whether wildlife can actually take advantage of it. Canary Reedgrass, for example, is a non-native highly aggressive grass which outcompetes native grasses and forbs and is of little or no use to native species.  It bears no seeds used by birds, deer ignore it and rabbits do as well. My non-native goats, primarily browsers, have done a good job eradicating it on my property, although they largely ignore the native sedges and grasses. I fought it very hard before I got the goats.

I strongly suggest you give the native forbs, brush and grasses a chance to recover before you plant non-natives. I have eight pack goats that I rotate to reduce non-native Buckthorn and Amur Maple, but have found over the years that I support the most wildlife by using them only until they reduce the non-natives, then moving them on to other sections. It takes several years for some of the natives to come back, but once they do, one of the huge benefits is that unlike non-natives that colonize an area for the whole growing season to the exclusion of other species, the natives rotate from one species to another during the growing season, and the native insects, birds, reptiles, mammals and amphibians that rely on them at certain stages of their reproduction find them ready just when required. My population of frogs, toads, butterflies, birds, deer, rabbits, foxes and coyotes have all increased on my property dramatically. Of particular importance are some thick stands of brush for cover from predators and for nesting sites. If wildlife is your focus, don’t totally eliminate native brush. Wildlife thrives on a bit of natural mess here and there. If you are planning on raising cattle, horses or sheep, ignore this advice.

Kable Thurlow said:

I would agree with Brett, this is pretty impressive Ben. Thank you for sharing your journey. 

Brett, I totally agree with you on trefoil and i have observed the same things here in Michigan, Trefoil is only growing out in the full sun areas of my farm and others that I have seen. 

Hey Richard,

That's the ecological trajectory I've taken. Natives are recovering quickly, and I'm holding off on seeding anything else until livestock (and maximizing their production) becomes an immediate reality.

Y'all better buckle up -- I just bought a 6.5 acre property with a few acres of young regrowth that needs thinning, and a few acres of meadow/lawn that needs re-foresting. Now accepting donations of fencing materials and livestock!

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