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Pollarding Black Locust successes and failures

 
Posts: 119
Location: Eastern Ontario
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Hi I wanted to share some unexpected results of pollarding black locust. I dont know if this topic belongs elsewhere but I did this as part of my goal of carbon farming.

So  I have 6 black locust in a field where I rotationally graze my cattle.  One is large and mature, about 20 years old. The other 5 are I believe to be its 'offspring' either but root suckering or by seed.  The big one shades my cattle and so I left it untouched. The other 5 I pollarded in July of last year. I gave the branches in full leaf to my cows who love them.  They all seemed to have recovered , having put out new shoots that will eventually be new branches that I would pollard in another 5 years.  Well of the 5, the two 'largest' (maybe 4-5 inches in diameter-- not really that large) did nt survive the winter. The 3 smaller ones did just fine.  I thought pollarding black locust would be an exceptionally good way to carbon farm. not only am I chopping and dropping , but the tree would prune its roots in response to the pollarding and thereby release bound nitrogen.  I will continue to pollard BLs start pollarding  smaller diameter trees.  I expect that after its first cycle I could prune 1/3 of the branches each year and the tree will be fine.

Has any one else observed this?  

I am I believe at the norther limit of BLs so maybe the combination of pollarding and a long cold winter did them in.  Maybe in a more southern location they would have survived.

By the way the grass underneath the original BL is so very lush and thick.  Not sure if its the nitrogen from the trees or cows dunging.

Anyways I thought I share that observation.

 
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Location: Nashville, Tennessee
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I have not tried pollarding BL, though I have several saplings started. The relevant info I have heard is that pollarding is a TRAINING technique for young trees. It is not appropriate for branches or trunks with significant heart wood as it is hard for the tree to heal over and form the pollard club head. If you try to pollard a more mature tree, you will leave it open to fungi and infections. Coppicing low is more appropriate for trees over a few inches diameter as the new growth comes at the soil line from a different kind of bud. I'm not sure what effect your winters have had on your BL. The only thing that comes to mind is giving it a round or two of only cutting when dormant to let it get established. Cutting mid season for fodder means the tree is going into winter with fresh growth. This might be much more vulnerable to frosty than a full years woody growth.
 
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Location: Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Both Black and Honey locust can benefit the owner who pollards the younger trees and even older trees respond well to pollarding at the right time of the year.
Many people find out (as you did) that this needs to be done in the fall so the trees will put out spring growth which will then have time to harden up to survive the next winter.
The best time to pollard trees is after leaf drop, cutting them in the middle of summer doesn't give the new shoots time enough to harden up so they can survive the winter.
You had a great idea, the timing was just off.

Don't worry  though, the mother tree will give you new young via root suckering over the next few years.
 
Jeff Marchand
Posts: 119
Location: Eastern Ontario
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Thanks Bryant and Dave.  So you think if I did the initial pollarding in the fall after leaf drop it would survive?  I am kind of keen to  let my cows eat the leaves as they are very nutritious. I would think on subsequent pollarding when you take only individual branches , if I took one branch in 3 each year in the summer and fed the cows the leaves that the tree would survive and cows would get extra protein.  Thoughts?
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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hau Jeff,
Are these trees in an area where you can just let the cows in so they can get at them?
The perfect method of using trees for fodder is to allow the cows access, they will browse those trees that they want and they will leave those they don't like.
This also allows them to fertilize that land and they will trample the soil, pushing their manure down into the soil urinating into it and when you move them out the soil will recover in better condition than if you spread fertilizer materials yourself.
In the few areas of the great plains where they have reintroduced bison and allowed them to be bison, the prairie has undergone a restoration with out human help, the bison are the restorers as they move along grazing their way and leaving their deposits, hoof prints as well as the indigestible seeds.
Mark, Joel and Gabe have been promoting this same methodology but using cattle and hogs in place of the bison and it works quite well.
You do need what we call Silvopasture (largish areas with grasses and trees) for this method to work super well.

If you start harvesting every third branch you are still going to stress the tree since those branches will need to be taken while the tree is growing, that means it is going to use a lot of energy to start growing a new branch to replace the one you took off.
If you let the cows do the trimming for themselves the tips of the branches will be eaten but not the whole branch, the trees will end up with branches just out of reach of the cows which gives them shady spots for the heat of the day relaxing and cud chewing.
This also puts the trees under less stress since they are not going to feel the need to grow a complete trunk, only side branching.

Redhawk
 
Jeff Marchand
Posts: 119
Location: Eastern Ontario
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I believe the purpose of pollarding instead of coppicing is to cut the where the cows CANT reach .  Otherwise the cows will eat all the fresh growth and not let tree recover.

This video is my inspiration for pollarding though I dont know if I will be drying the leaves for winter hay.

I think everyone here will love this vid.

 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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hau Jeff,  Pollarding is creating a crown of branches where coppicing is for wood that can be used for fires or furniture or other uses.

Most of the time pollarding is seen on fruit bearing trees since it makes harvesting much easier.   (nice video by the way, thanks for sharing that)

Redhawk
 
Jeff Marchand
Posts: 119
Location: Eastern Ontario
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I noticed in that video that he says not too start pollard when there is more heartwood than sap wood.  This is consistent with what I saw with my BLs.  Smaller ones were fine. The larger ones did nt pull though.
Bryant about your point on agroforestry. It is something I am very interested in.  Its a chicken and egg thing though. I cant plant trees without excluding the beef and if I did that the qaulity of hte grass would decline. Perhaps this year I will transplant some BL seedlings into pasture in a row and protect with electro fence.  Cows are awefully hard on young trees.
 
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