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Farm, Garden and The Land => Permaculture, Land Management and Foraging => Topic started by: jd350az on March 21, 2018, 11:12:15 AM

Title: Pioneer trees
Post by: jd350az on March 21, 2018, 11:12:15 AM
What are good trees for pioneer species and to replace mesquite. Also do you have any ideas for working with Bermuda grass?

Info, moving to a homestead(southern AZ), has cows on it, 3 acres, 4 cows. Overgrazed and lots of supplemental feed and its Bermuda grass and a Mesquite forest
Good things are it's irrigated and fenced. I am looking at rotational grazing ala Joel Salatin or Greg Judy, Savory, etc. I plan to get Electric fencing and start soon, with chickens playing cleanup. The mesquites are old and some are in bad shape so I plan to block off some young ones from the cows and also planting support trees with a little more use and straighter maybe? I know the mesquite canopy is great for keeping the sun at bay but I am thinking more down the line as they get old and fall. I was thinking black locust and black walnut. I hope to get some fruit and nut trees in soon as well. The other issue is Bermuda grass and I am hoping to get something going with more nutrients/variety for the cows but honestly if Bermuda will sustain them I can live with it, everything I am researching is it is VERY tough to get rid of and 3 acres of it is too much for most plans.

Title: Re: Pioneer trees
Post by: Mr. Bill on March 21, 2018, 11:28:26 AM
I don't know much about southern Arizona, but I've had a little experience with black locust up here in eastern Washington.  Locust borer ( is a serious problem, so find out if this pest is common in your area.  Infested trees drop big heavy branches, and eventually the center of the trunk rots out and the whole tree has to be cut down before it falls.
Title: Re: Pioneer trees
Post by: mountainmoma on March 21, 2018, 12:50:15 PM
I dont see why you would want to replace mesquite with locust, since mesquite is a good species and does so well where you are. Mesquite has edible seeds, very nutritious, for humans if you need to, and for sure would be great chicken forage. Mesquite leaves are good forage for goats, I would think cattle would eat this too, if not off of the tree, at least if you presented leaves to them. The tree is nitrogen fixing. The wood is good to burn for fuel. It grows in your area with no fuss and work needed from you.

Black locust trees are also many of these things, except the pods are not used as people food, and they also get so huge if let go that eventually they are too big to cut or manage. I would not sub it for your mesquite.

Black walnut grows slower, is not as nice to burn as fuel, and is antagonistic to other surrounding plants, so can be hard to impossible to intercrop, and the leaves cannot be used for forage and are sometimes poisonous  (although I have no problem letting my foraging horses and goats by the trees as my animals are so well fed they have not gotten  sick off off it, many people I know will not let grazing animals near it) Black walnut leaves and hulls make a great dye for wool and fabric, and a very large tree makes nice furniture wood. I have never been able to use nuts off of one here because of both squirrels and also insects get into them. I would not use intercropped in your forage area.

Mesquite is your go to pioneer species. Maybe honey locust, instead of black locust, as it is a good forage tree and also a pioneer tree ?

what a pretty pasture you have ! If you ever think you are might have goats in the future, do know that goats can get sick off of stone fruit leaves ( partially wilted, not fresh or dried) so keep that in mind. I do not know if cows have the same problem or not, look it up. -- I just looked it up, cows of course, as ruminants have the same problem, no wilted stone fruit leaves ! -- So, that is the only thing I would watch out for, keep any interplanted stone fruit trees in an area that they can be kept out of seasonally.
Title: Re: Pioneer trees
Post by: jd350az on March 21, 2018, 12:59:43 PM
Yeah I don't mean replace as in clearing out the mesquite and replacing with something new. I just want to add variety and diversity to the "forest". I also want something prolific to help other properties. Mesquite is definite the main pioneer species and they have also done that on this land, there is almost a full canopy of dapple sun across the 3 acres. I will try to get a few coming up to replace some as I trim the older ones and 1 or 2 needs cutting down. Is there a tree that would go well with them and be prolific and easy to propagate?

Is the need for support trees not as great with the canopy I already have growing or should I plant in more with a food forest setup? I am still in the observation phase but I plan to plant productive trees over the next year or so when I get a better lay of the land.
Title: Re: Pioneer trees
Post by: T Kehl on March 22, 2018, 06:22:37 AM
First, I'd cut about half those trees to start to open the canopy.  Any grass will struggle with that much shade.

Second, IF you want more trees don't fight the flow.  I don't know your climate, but look around and see what trees thrive and what don't.  I suspect Black Walnut may struggle in Arizona being so far out of it's native range, but have no experience and could be wrong.  As for grazing, we've had no issues with cattle or goats grazed around Black Walnut and have done it for years.  This is with 20 acres thick with BW plus more scattered around the rest of the property.

Third, you are stocked too heavily.  Bermuda is one of the few grasses that will put up with that in your area.  Kentucky 31 fescue will put up with it also, but again, don't know your climate.  Best to learn to work with the Bermuda than fight the flow unless you change stocking density.  Rotation is good, but you are still stocked too heavy.

Forth, if you plant more trees, #4 may get worse as you will get back to #1.  Grass will grow in shade and partial mottled shade may help where you are.  Avoid a closed canopy though or your grass will be gone.

No offense intended, but it sounds like you are trying to find the perfect "dual purpose" chicken but in a property.  Just like eggs or meat, cattle or trees can be optimized or you can have some of each, but you can't optimize both at the same time as their needs oppose each other.  And yes, that many cattle can be run on 3 acres with purchased feed, but it will never be sustainable or profitable.  (Outside of some extremely profitable niche, like organic soy free Kobe beef sold by the cut.)  It's basically like a boutique feed lot instead of pasture...
Title: Re: Pioneer trees
Post by: jd350az on March 22, 2018, 10:51:16 AM
Thanks twk, I appreciate the insight! I was thinking I could maybe cheat some better grass in with the canopy, I know the neighbor has a lush green grass yard of what I think is rye? I'm not real good with plants. And the whole land does get dappled sun, not a complete canopy. I was already planning on thinning it out just because most are old and looking bad and every storm we are cleaning up branches, etc. I don't want 3 acres of forest, just thinking some variety in trees would help. I do plan to encourage volunteer mesquite to grow though as we have plenty coming up as long as I keep the cows off them. I am hoping with rotational grazing and moving electric fence around I can "steer" them around new trees and better protect them.

The Cows are gonna be a fight. They are actually my step father's and the land was his mom's so we are kinda taking care of them for him. If it was up to me I would keep 2 and go with that. Baby steps though, they still don't believe in rotational grazing either and him and his brother are doing the supplemental feed and have been for years. His brother gets trailer loads of spent brewers grain from a guy he does work for every week or two and my step father buys hay as needed. Even trying to convince them it would save money and produce better beef is an uphill battle lol. I am basically waiting to get the money and just start doing the rotational grazing and let them see results. I think we will be slaughtering the steer this year so it will be down to 3 but they are already talking about renting  a bull and breeding the 3 left. They have never sold beef, just using it for themselves but I think they are thinking if they breed all 3 there will be extra to sell even if they just auction off the older gals. That will be future me's problem lol. We also have good rapport with the neighbor that has 48 acres. Unfortunately her husband died and she pretty much shut down the operations, it used to be a horse ranch with a few nice pastures and about 45 acres of "wilderness". Since his passing she sold all the horses, the well died that fed the irrigation so the pastures died and the fence around the wilderness needs lots of repairs. She lets the cows come mow down when it rains and anything grows but that is only a few months of the year here.

So anyway, when I am thinking pioneer trees I am thinking small scale around the house to eventually build up a food forest. Right now the cows are in pastures and there is a good chunk of land around the house they don't usually get to. Maybe with rotational grazing and electric fencing I could use them more around the house and be able to keep them out of the garden and flower pots but right now it's separate.

The more I think about it the more I think mesquite would actually be perfect for the other areas I wanted to help populate(my dad's house and some other land) so I guess I have my pioneer trees. Anything I would want to plant will either provide food for me or flowers for pollinators or habitat for birds/insects.
Title: Re: Pioneer trees
Post by: T Kehl on March 23, 2018, 07:50:29 AM
Rotational grazing can sure help.  We can run almost twice the cattle  on the same ground when rotating, but it took a few years for the land to respond.  Also have to think through water placement in individual pens.  On three acres, though, that can be a portable tank and garden hoses.

I can see how you make it work with the brewers grain.  Wish we had one nearby.  Honestly a better nutrient profile than straight grain as the sugars are spent in fermentation.   :)

Being friendly with the neighbor and accessing that ground makes this much more tenable.  I bet offering to work on their fence would go a long way.  A LOT can be done with a few cattle panels and 2 strand high tensile fence.  Just be sure to water your ground rod when it gets dry.  We even have to do that in the summertime a bit.  (Mid MO)

Dryland is not bad, just different.  (We don't irrigate, but get more rain than you do.)  I was reading in Stockman Grass Farmer about the size of some western ranches, in awe at the acreage.  Then I do the math and many need 10-20 acres per cow-calf unit.  Yowsah!  We ran 4-5 acres per cow-calf unit set stocked in Missouri (30ish inches of rain annually).  Getting closer to 3 now.  The neighbors hit 2.2 recently, but they put down a lot of fertilizer from their confinement barns...

A BIG and HARD question though, is how did your neighbors well die?  If it was parts broke, ok.  But if it was a dropping water table, then you need to be real pragmatic about how long your well has left...  You said you irrigate.  No well and your land looks like their land...
Title: Re: Pioneer trees
Post by: jd350az on March 28, 2018, 01:58:44 PM
No the neighbors well pump died and the City got water to the area so they decided to go with city water instead of fixing the well. They are actually talking to my step father now about repairing it and doing the same thing we are, city water at the house and well water for irrigation.