Make the Most of Trees: Trees as Fenceposts and Trees in Pasture

Environment and climate changeLivestock and beekeepingTrees and agroforestry


Today we have two ideas for you from Guatemalan farmers about uses for trees that might be new to you. These are ideas that are especially useful for farmers who don’t have lots of land for tree planting, but who know how important it is to plant trees on the farm. As we all know, trees help to reduce soil erosion. Tree roots help to hold soil in place. Tree leaves fall to the ground and add organic matter to the soil. This helps to hold water in the soil for crops. Sometimes trees make good windbreaks. Trees provide firewood and building materials.

Trees as fence posts

Some farmers in Guatemala use trees as fence posts. They want to put up a fence to mark the borders of their land to keep people and animals out. So, they build a fence, but instead of regular fence posts, they use trees for posts. It’s really a simple idea. If you think this is something you would like to try, here are a few things to remember about the kind of trees that make the best fence posts.

First, the type of trees you choose should have small canopies so they won’t shade the crops in your fields. Second, it’s a good idea to choose leguminous trees because they add nitrogen to the soil.

Also, choose trees that grow easily from cuttings. This means when you cut off a branch from a fully grown tree and plant it in the ground, it will grow to be a healthy tree just from that branch cutting. This way you do not need to buy tree seedlings from a nursery.

To grow a tree this way cut a branch 2 metres long off the type of tree you want to grow for your fence post. The branch should be about 10-30 centimetres in diameter. It is best to take the middle part of the tree branch. Make a sharp cut on an angle when you cut the branch. Cut the side branches with leaves on them off the cutting. Then plant it in the ground. There are a few tree species that you can grow from cuttings in this way. In Guatemala, some common examples are gliricidia (Gliricida sepium) which is known as madre-de-cacao in Guatemala and (Erythrina spp.) which is known as pito or miche in Guatemala.

In Guatemala the farmers usually cut the branches off the trees a couple of months before the rainy season starts. They leave the branches on the ground for a month where they will often start to sprout roots. They plant the branches about one month before the rainy season starts.

The next step is to mark the land by putting up regular fence posts first, then building the fence by attaching wires between the posts. Between the posts plant the tree cuttings that will eventually be the fence posts. When the trees have grown high and big enough to be good fence posts, remove the fence posts and attach the wires of the fence to the trees. You can staple or nail the wires to the tree – it doesn’t hurt the tree. The wood is soft and the tree will not be damaged.

This is a really good idea if you would like to have some trees on your farm, but you don’t know where there is space to plant them. Use them as fence posts! Remember that the trees you choose for fence posts should not shade the crop too much, should add nitrogen to the soil and should grow easily from branches taken from a fully grown tree.

Fruit trees in pasture

Now an idea about tree planting for farmers who have pasture for grazing animals. Did you know that

you can plant trees right in the middle of your pasture? This is a good way for farmers with pasture to integrate trees.

In Guatemala the most common trees to plant in pasture are fruit trees. This way farmers have the benefit of harvesting fruit to eat or sell. Some of the most popular trees to plant in pasture are avocadoes, oranges, mangos, mangosteen, and papayas. It’s a good idea to plant the trees in rows. There can be about 12-15 metres between each tree and 20-25 metres between each row of trees. This way the trees will not shade the pasture too much, but you’ll still have enough trees to get a good crop of fruit. Experiment with the spacing to see what is best for you. For example, if you want to harvest more fruit, plant more fruit trees closer together. Remember that the trees will help to hold water in the soil and control soil erosion on your farm.

So these are a couple of simple ideas that you can use on your farm. Use trees for fenceposts. Plant fruit trees in pasture. Make the most of trees!

Information sources

  • Artemio Ramírez Ramírez (B.S.Forest Management), National Counterpart – Community Forestry Project, DIGEBOS – AID (Dirección General de Bosques y Vida Silvestre – Agency for International Development) 7a Avenida 6-80, Zona 13, Guatemala City, Guatemala, Central America.

Further information about trees on farms

  •   El árbol al servicio del agricultor: Vol. 2 Guia de Especies (Trees at the service of the farmer: Volume 2 – Guide to Species) by Frans Geilfus, available from CATIE, Turrialba, Costa Rica.
  • Trees for Zimbabwe; a guide for teachers and students (1991, 191 pages) by Beth Conover, published by ENDA-Zimbabwe, Environment Resources Management Division, P.O. Box 3492, Harare, Zimbabwe.
  •  “Fencing method by planting cuttings of tree with vigorous sprouting and rooting capacities” in Useful farming practices (1984, 107 pages) published by the Association for International Cooperation of Agriculture and Forestry, Zenkoku Nogyo Kyosai Kaikan, 19 Ichibancho Chiyoda – Ku, Tokyo 102, Japan.
  •  Agroforestry Technology Information Kit, (1989) Published by the International Institute for Rural Reconstruction (IIRR), Silang, Cavite, Philippines.
  •  Environmentally sound small-scale forestry projects (1983, 109 pages) by Peter Ffolliott and John L. Thames, produced by CODEL and VITA, available from VITA Publications, Box 12348, Arlington, VA 22209, USA.