Photo credit: Dream Lodge Permaculture
Silvopasture and land reclamation
I am fairly sure that Silvopasture is the correct term for what we are doing, but it could also be termed land reclamation, or agroforestry perhaps? There were two stages to the process, firstly getting rid of the invasive alien trees on the farm, and then re-establishing the natural trees to improve the grazing potential.
Invasive Tree Removal
When we moved to this farm there was a lot of black wattle and blue gum (eucalytus) trees which are invasive in South Africa. They have a use in that they provide firewood and wood for other purposes like fence poles etc, but the ground underneath is degraded and the grazing quality severely depleted. Blue gums transpire a huge amount of water and depress the water table around them, drying out the ground, and black wattles form dense stands with almost no vegetation growth underneath.
Many years were spend cutting out the invasive species (providing a lot of warm winter fires in the process), and eventually the farm was clear of them. It is a long and laborious process to remove the trees, and a good chainsaw is essential.
For blue gums the trees need to be cut down and the stumps poisoned. Fortunately the seeds only seem to last in the soil for about two seasons, so the trees stop regrowing from seeds after a while. It stands to reason then, if you are trying to remove these trees, to get rid of the large, seed producing trees first, and then tackle the smaller ones.
Black wattles are more difficult. It is not generally necessary to poison the stumps of the larger trees, as they die when they are cut down. Small saplings are very resilient though and will regrow unless they are poisoned. Once a stand of wattles has been cut down, the sunlight on the ground causes all of the seeds on the ground to germinate like a carpet. I also noticed that after a grass fire it also induced the seeds to germinate en masse. To get rid of these, I applied a number of approaches.
Read the full article: Dream Lodge Permaculture
Author: Willem Van Cotthem
Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development. View all posts by Willem Van Cotthem