I published the first edition of The Grazier’s Guide to Trees in January of 2022, exactly one year ago as I write this. In it I shared all that I knew at the time about the best practices for establishing silvopasture, focusing especially on planting hardwoods in an actively grazed pasture, since that’s our main focus. Since then, we’ve continued to learn a lot, and I’d like to keep you informed of what we’re learning, so that you stay up to date with the best insights and strategies. The field of silvopasture establishment is so young right now that the pace of learning is very high. As we learn new things, or reconsider things we thought we knew, I’ll share those updates here. Eventually I’ll take these updates, along with other book edits, and publish a new edition of the Grazier’s Guide. Because I don’t want you to have to wait for that, or have to buy a new version every time you want updates, I’ll give the core updates here.
- Top Working. The degree of difficulty and devotion required to planting seedling trees in an actively grazed pasture and later top-working those trees with improved scion is likely going to make this practice unreasonable for almost all scenarios. Which is a bummer, because it would be a great way to get trees established in these early days of silvopasture, by starting with seedlings (whether improved or not improved) and later top-working the males, the thorny trees, or anything else that for whatever reason was undesirable. Top-working other fruit, like grapes or apples, is common practice. However, with common fruits we’re talking about grafting at chest height (rather than like 7’ tall so it’s above browse, or inside of a tube), using cheap and readily available scion (as opposed to scion for honey locust or persimmon, which is much harder and more expensive to come by), and without the challenge of livestock pressure. Also, there’s hundreds of years of experience top-working grapes and apples. That’s not the case yet with trees like honey locust, mulberry or persimmon. Can it work? Sure it can. Will it be practical? Not in most cases. We’ve had a bear of a time top-working honeys, mulberry and persimmon in our scion nursery, and the grafting was being done by professionals with years of experience, without livestock to complicate the protection of the newly grafted trees. So, be wary of this route. It’s likely better to wait for improved, thornless, clonally propagated trees to come out in the years ahead.
- Honey Locust Seedlings. Related to the above, we don’t advise seedling honey locust until better breeding pools have been developed. Read more about why, and what we’re doing on this subject, here.