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By Kirk Arnold, NODPA Co-President
This spring on the farm I've been working on a pasture tree planting project that is in our farm's CSP management plan. We are hoping to have multiple benefits of dispersed shade, fodder from honey locust pods, and maybe, most of all, some new fence posts in 5-10 years.
I started out this spring not thinking much about the fence post aspect, as it will be quite some time before a payoff, but I've since changed my mind. I've been fixing much of our high tensile fence and finding that the Cedar posts in our newer fences (about 10 years old) are rotting off at an alarming rate. Our first high tensile fences, many well over 20 years old and built with treated fence posts, are also starting to go bad but at over twice the age as our Cedar posts we've been using to meet organic rules. I've also been having a harder time getting the composite fence posts (back ordered and out of stock) that I have been using as replacements for the smaller in-row posts but still need something much bigger for gate and corner posts. This has led me to planning a planting next year of just black locust for the sole purpose of growing most, or ideally all, of our own permanent fence posts.
The main challenges will be trying to have them grow straight and some form of weed suppression that is low maintenance. We are following the advice of Steve Gabiel, author of Silvopasture, to plant the black locust close to each other (3' spacing) to encourage them to grow straight and tall. I've also heard I may need to prune them to help keep them straight. There are apparently different cultivars that are better suited for posts and I'll have to make sure I can get the bare root stock ordered early.
So far, we are really enjoying the nearly two week earlier pasture season so far this spring but are dealing with some pretty wet pastures as of now. Cheers and may your pastures be lush and fence posts straight.