Looking for a living fence that won't overrun nearby crops

I’m looking for recommedations for certain type of crop that might allow me to keep livestock out, but would not overrun crops near it? Anybody have some suggestions?

Here in Central Africa, rains are frequent and termites are in abundance, so cutting down trees for stick fences is simply not practical - they last only a few months. So, here at the CEFA experimental and training farm, we have researched several types of “living fences” and we have come up with this winner.

Along the border of your property or garden, you first dig a one meter wide and one meter deep trench as your first deterrent. Make sure you pile all the dirt from the trench on the inside of your garden or property making a triangular hill that slants into the trench - this being the second barrier of sorts.

Next, on the slanted side of the hill facing the trench, plant sisal plants, sometimes known as century cactus - the type that has nasty thorns on the leaf edges and tips. There are different varieties, but the large size is recommended so they need to be planted 1-2m from each other in a single row or in two rows, but staggered. This is your third and main part of the living fence.

Fourthly, we plant vetiver grass, a very deep rooted erosion control grass along the opposite edge of the hill, on the outside edge of the trench. Plant the sprigs right next to each other. All of this takes a good year to grow and fill in, keeping cows, pigs, goats, and even people from entering your property or garden.

One other option is to add thorny shrubs in between the sisal as a fifth barrier. If you absolutely need the fence now, you can construct a sixth obstruction adding one meter high glyricidia fence where you simply cut glyricidia sticks and poke them in the ground. During rainy season, they sprout quickly in the rainy season and can be constructed at the top of the hill. If you don’t know what sisal, or vetiver, or glyricidia are, just look them up on the web. Here in Central Africa, the local variety of living fence is the jatropha plant. You plant cuttings close together and it grows quickly as well.

You’d be surprised as to what is available locally - glyricidia was the only one our program introduced, the others were found in the area.

At the University of Tennessee, we are starting a project in Cambodia with the Royal University of Agriculture comparing four living fence species in their ability to keep cattle and buffalo out of paddies or other agricultural plots following the monsoon/rice season. Livestock invasion is a common obstacle to the successful cultivation of a post-rice crop, such as cowpea or mung bean. We will be testing Gliricidia sepium, Leuceana leucocephala, Moringa oleifera, and Acacia pennata. All of these species are readily available and used in Cambodia. Our on-station and on-farm trials will be conducted in Battambang Province in Cambodia. I’d be happy to keep you updated, if you are interested in our findings. Otherwise, Roy Danforth has provided some excellent ideas here already, and I would echo his sentiment in terms of looking locally for what species are available as a great first step.

If you’re able to download it, there is a good (though academic) article which might be useful by Love, Bork and Spaner out of the University of Alberta in the journal Agroforestry Systems (2009) 77:1-8. Its DOI is: 10.1007/s10457-009-9244-8