Impact of increasing shade levels on the dry-matter yield and botanical composition of multispecies forage stands

Kelly M. Mercier, Christopher D. Teutsch, John H. Fike, John F. Munsell, Benjamin F. Tracy, Brian D. Strahm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Botanical diversity has been linked to increased biomass production of grasslands, but these relationships have not been explored as extensively in silvopasture systems where shade impacts on forage mass are variable due to the unique structure and environment of each system. The objective of this study was to evaluate the impact of multiple artificial shade levels on the DM yield and botanical composition of three cool-season forage mixtures near Blackstone, Virginia, USA. Mixtures were as follows: simple = tall fescue [Schedonorus arundinaceus (Schreb.) Dumort., nom. cons.] and white clover (Trifulium repens L.); intermediate = simple + orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerate L.) and red clover (Trifolium pretense L.); and complex = intermediate + Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis L.), birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus L.) and alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.). Slatted structures created conditions of 30%, 50% and 70% shade relative to a full sun control. Forages were harvested mechanically (no grazers present). Annual yield (DM kg/ha) did not differ among mixtures. As compared to full sun, annual yield was no different at 30% shade, but was reduced by 22 and 36% at 50 and 70% shade respectively. In contrast to other species in the mixtures, orchardgrass increased in proportion when grown beneath all shade levels and is recommended for silvopasture use. Orchardgrass is not particularly well-adapted to the transition zone between the northern temperate and southern subtropical United States; therefore, these results indicate that silvopastures may be an effective way to integrate marginally adapted, shade-tolerant cool-season forages into transition zone grazing systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-302
Number of pages12
JournalGrass and Forage Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 John Wiley & Sons Ltd


  • grass–legume mixture
  • microclimate
  • silvopasture
  • species diversity
  • transition zone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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