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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Hi Benjamin, here is MI, our forage specialist recommended Orchard Grass as one of the grass species. Not sure what you would plant in your area. Good Luck! 

Thanks, Kable. I've looked at orchard grass, and it's towards the top of my list. If only it spread more prolifically... That it's so deep-rooting is appealing, for sure.

Again, I am not sure where you are located, but in my regular pastures in central MI, i have a fair amount of trefoil, which i like. I wonder how that would perform in a silvopasture. If any on this forum can weigh in, i would like to learn about your experiences. Forages%20for%20Silvopastures%202019%20Kim%20Cassida.pdf

Limited shade tolerance studies indicate that Reed Canary, Orchardgrass and Tall Fescue and Bluegrass are amongst the most shade-tolerant cool season grasses, roughly in that order.  However, varieties within species seem to matter.  

The same studies suggest that red clover is bit more shade-tolerant than white clover, and both are less tolerant than the above grasses.  I've observed both doing ok in silvopastures, but they seem to just survive vs. grow well without at least ~ 50% sunlight.  

Trefoil is abundant on our farm, but I've never seen it grow anywhere other than full sun, which makes me think it has low shade-tolerance.  

I have yet to see a true forage mix advertised for silvopasture or light shade applications, but I have to believe someone has come up with one.  "Shade lawn" mixes probably won't work well for a grazing application as they'd contain a high percent of low-growth, fine-bladed grasses that aren't necessarily attractive to livestock.

First thing I would do is look around at what's growing in the sunnier spots of wooded areas, assuming it's not totally choked out with invasive plants.  It's common to see sedges and small bunch grasses (most of which I don't know the names of) in lightly-wooded areas around this area.  But since the deer don't seem to touch them, my guess is that livestock wouldn't find them very attractive either.

Thanks, Brett!

Unfortunately, stilt grass is growing in the sunnier spots right now. BUT in sections of the woods that I selectively thinned 1-2 years ago, the same stilt grass has given way to a much more diverse mix of cool and warm season grasses and shrubs, which the deer seem to love (there's a group of 5-9 deer that I see in the same area every morning). Those woods are in the floodplain though, and this year I'm more focused on the highest points of the property, so I probably won't see the same seed bank up there.

Below is a panorama photo from this early spring, probably early March, before everything really leafed out... it's not that sunny in there anymore!


Brett Chedzoy said:

Limited shade tolerance studies indicate that Reed Canary, Orchardgrass and Tall Fescue and Bluegrass are amongst the most shade-tolerant cool season grasses, roughly in that order.  However, varieties within species seem to matter.  

The same studies suggest that red clover is bit more shade-tolerant than white clover, and both are less tolerant than the above grasses.  I've observed both doing ok in silvopastures, but they seem to just survive vs. grow well without at least ~ 50% sunlight.  

Trefoil is abundant on our farm, but I've never seen it grow anywhere other than full sun, which makes me think it has low shade-tolerance.  

I have yet to see a true forage mix advertised for silvopasture or light shade applications, but I have to believe someone has come up with one.  "Shade lawn" mixes probably won't work well for a grazing application as they'd contain a high percent of low-growth, fine-bladed grasses that aren't necessarily attractive to livestock.

First thing I would do is look around at what's growing in the sunnier spots of wooded areas, assuming it's not totally choked out with invasive plants.  It's common to see sedges and small bunch grasses (most of which I don't know the names of) in lightly-wooded areas around this area.  But since the deer don't seem to touch them, my guess is that livestock wouldn't find them very attractive either.

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Shade-tolerant forage seed species and sources?

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