Integrated farming opportunities ?

Bees-on-Honeycomb (2)

Lets define ‘integrated farming’ as having two (or more) complimentary income producing primary production activities occurring on the same unit of land and where one of these activities compliments in some way the other – or better still each other.

The traditional integrated farming activity has been (and still is) farm forestry where tree planting in avenues or shelter belts provides long-term income from timber but at the same time provides shade and shelter for stock and protection from wind for crops as well salinity interception in some cases.

Whilst farm forestry is the obvious activity when thinking of integrated farming but it doesn’t end there.

5 to 10m wide-spaced hedgerows of Leptospermum growing 2 or 3 metres in height and of upright habit makes for a  range of complimentary opportunities.

Sheep is an obvious one as they don’t eat the plants and will benefit from the shade and shelter provided along the hedgerows. Any loss of carrying capacity arising from the presence of these hedgerows is more that offset by the shade and shelter provided not only for the livestock but for any improved pasture established or encouraged to grow in between the rows.

That is just the beginning. Good fencing, good management and the use of Maremma dogs will allow for these areas to be used for farming free-range poultry. The birds would also benefit from the protection provided by the hedgerows. Turkeys and possibly some game bird varieties could also find a way into this.

Cropping down the rows could also be another option depending on what part of the country is being considered. Seed grown strip crops could potentially provide a useful pollen source that would be available prior to the Leptospermum flowering. Considerable caution must be taken due to the widespread use of persistent insecticidal seed coatings that are highly toxic to bees even in minute concentrations and can remain in the immediate environment for long periods of time. One such chemical is Neonicotinoid pesticide.

Cut flowers might also be an option along with vegetables again taking care not to introduce chemical residues to the area. Anything at all provided it does not create any shade along the hedgerows.

Shelter Belts

Multi-row shelter belts using single species Leptospermum is another option worth considering instead of the more conventional mixed species approach.

This would be approached differently depending on individual circumstances.