June 4: dehesa australis

Dehesa (in Spain) or montado (in Portugal) is a type of agroforestry practised across the Iberian Peninsula. Traditional dehesa is an oak woodland, mostly cork oak (Quercus suber) but also holm oak (Quercus ilex), with various shrubs and grasses – and sometimes crops – growing under the tree cover. In many areas livestock are grazed under the trees; cattle and sometimes sheep graze on the shrubs and grasses, and pigs are herded through to eat the fallen acorns.


In an Australian context, a similar system of value-add agroforestry seems very plausible. The tree component could be any one of a number of tree crops – cork oaks and holm oaks would work just as well here, but so would carob (Ceratonia siliqua), several types of wattle (Acacia spp.) with edible seeds or foliage which can be used as supplementary feed for grazing animals, mulberries (Morus nigra), or Eucalypt species which have valuable timber. Forage shrubs could be grown under the trees – the smaller wattle speces, old man saltbush (Atriplex nummularia) – and both annual and perennial grasses and legumes. Then animals could be grazed under the shade cover of the trees.


This idea is one that I (and other people) have been playing with for awhile. Half of the property is currently forested with regrowth bushland, mostly Marri (Corymbia calophylla) trees and parrot bush (Banksia sessilis). My plan is to plant cork oaks, holm oaks, edible-seeded wattles, and stone pines (Pinus pinea) as the woodland trees. Through the area allocated as pasture (not currently wooded) I’m putting in mulberries, wattles, carob, olives, and honey locust.


A few weeks ago, I planted a selection of wattle seeds. Many have sprouted, and yesterday I gently teased out the individual seedlings and replanted them into tree tubes. Next: mulberry cuttings, and (hopefully) the sprouting of the cork oak acorns and stone pine seeds.