Fertilisers, minerals, improved seed, and time-controlled grazing improve pasture productivity. But we often overlook the benefits of creating silvopasture to tackle the decline in pasture productivity simply due to plants stopping photosynthesizing during hot, dry conditions.
Photosynthesis is the process plants use to capture solar energy and convert it into stored energy. Plants do this by combining carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates. In our pastures, when grasses curl up their leaves and other plants wilt, it’s a sign that they have closed the air holes (stomata) on the underside of their leaves to conserve water. Unfortunately, this also means that they’ve cut off the supply of carbon dioxide for photosynthesis. Pasture productivity declines because less solar energy is converted into stored energy.
Open stoma in the Epidermis of a Leaf (© bccoer)
Irrigation is the standard solution. However, irrigation doesn’t solve the root cause of the problem. Growing trees within our paddocks improve water availability long-term and cost-effectively by improving our water cycle.
How Silvopasture improves Photosynthesis
Pasture grown under a well-designed open tree canopy will capture more solar energy and produce higher yields than grown in full sun because of the improvements trees make to our water cycle. These are the obvious improvements –
- Trees produce shade and act as windbreaks, reducing water loss from soil and pasture through evaporation and evapotranspiration (the water released into the air as water vapour from the stomata)
- Trees reduce water loss from soil and vegetation by creating natural air conditioning – the cooling effect of evaporation of water from the surface of leaves and transpiration by plants
- Tree roots create channels for water to move down through the soil and deep roots take water further down into the soil where less gets evaporated.
- Trees store water and capture extra dew
What is often overlooked is the improvement trees make to our soil ecosystem. As explained in our Handbook – How to Drought-Proof your Farm, trees enable more water to infiltrate and be stored in our soil.
Watch this video to see how trees improve pasture productivity on our farm.
(Note – Refractometers (Brix Meters) are a standard piece of equipment used for measuring dissolved sugars and solids in a liquid.)
For practical information to use on your farm get our Eco-logical Farming Handbook –