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John H. Fike

John Fike
185 Ag Quad Lane
365 Smyth Hall
Blacksburg, VA


I have a 50:50 Research and Extension appointment. I lead and support state-wide, client-centered programming efforts focused on grassland and hemp production management. I develop educational opportunities and deliver information to forage and livestock producers on profitable management, with specific focus on fescue (the state’s primary forage grass) and on ways to increase grazing days (Graze 300) and thus reduce hay making and feeding costs. I develop new information and demonstrations showing the multiple production, animal welfare, and ecosystem benefits of integrating trees into pastures (silvopasture), and I provide state and national leadership on alternative uses of forage crops (as biofuels) and hemp (as a food, fiber, and medicinal crop).


  • Ph.D., Ruminant Nutrition, University of Florida, 1999
    Dissertation: Grazing systems and management strategies for lactating Holstein cows in Florida
  • M.S., Forage Agronomy, Virginia Tech, 1995
    Thesis: Influence of seaweed extract and other plant growth regulators on growth, persistence, and quality of tall fescue and their potential to alleviate tall fescue toxicity to livestock
  • B.S., Science Education, Wake Forest University, 1988


I work with an interdisciplinary group of crop, livestock, and forest scientists to understand the production implications of silvopasture management. This includes study of tree-forage-livestock interactions and the implications of silvopasture management for animal production and welfare. More traditional forage research programming involves ways to mitigate fescue toxicosis and to increase pasture biodiversity to create more resilient forage systems and provide accompanying environmental benefits.

Industrial Hemp

Industrial hemp studies have largely involved variety and agronomic trials to find plant materials and production management practices that match Virginia's unique regions.  Current student efforts are also looking at hemp as a feed resource for horses and livestock.

Professor | 2020-present
School of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Virginia Tech

Associate Professor | 2006 - 2020
Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences, Virginia Tech

Assistant Professor | 2000 - 2006
Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences, Virginia Tech

Professional Activities and Societies

  • Agroforestry Systems – Associate Editor
  • American Society of Agronomy
  • Association for Temperate Agroforestry - Board Member
  • Chesapeake Bay - Board Member
  • Crop Science Society of America
  • Mountains to Bay, Chesapeake Bay Foundation - Steering Committee
  • Virginia Forage and Grassland Council - Educational Advisor
  • Fike, J., and J. Munsell. 2022-2023. Open Road Alliance support for silvopasture carbon markets. $100,000
  • Fike, J. and S. Shafian. 2022-2023. Establishing improved forbs in perennial grassland systems to improve stand diversity, forage quality and soil health. NRCS CIG. $195,000.
  • Fike et al. 2022-2023. Shortening the Time to Convert Toxic Fescue to Novel Fescue. Virginia Agricultural Council. $29,562.
  • Munsell et al. 2022-2023. Catalyzing the Next Phase of Appalachian Agroforestry – Building upon Proven Programs to Rapidly Expand Application, Enhance Ecosystem Services, and Advance Regional Justice. Edwards Mother Earth Foundation. $607,356.
  • Halich et al. 2022-2026. Bale Grazing: A Practical, Low-Cost, and Environmentally-Sound Management Strategy to Winter Beef Cattle. USDA-NRCS CIG. To Va Tech = $284,967; Total: $2,281,844.
  • Fike J., and J. Munsell. 2021-2023. Assessing suitable production techniques for ramps in Appalachia. VDACS - RAMPS. My Amount: $35128.94. Total: $70,258
  • Fike, J., T.B. Wilson, M. Shepherd. 2021-2023.  Hemp grain for equine. Pratt. My Amount: $62,500. Total: $125,000.


  • 2020-2022 President, USDA (NIMSS) S1084 Multi-state industrial hemp research group
  • 2016 Drs. John and Shirley Gerken Professional Development Award for extension
  • 2014 College of Architecture and Urban Studies Outreach Award. P. Kelsch, S Piedmont-Palladino, E. Wiseman, J. Fike., N. Heavers, J. Munsell
  • 2014 VCE Program Excellence Award. A. Downing, J. Fike, G. Frey, J. Munsell, C. Teutsch, T. Mize, J. Daniels. Statewide award for achieving excellence in “New Initiatives” with Silvopasture: Conservation Innovation for Virginia’s Agriculture and Natural Resource Professionals” 


As Virginia’s State Forage Specialist, I work with agents and producers to improve the productivity, profitability and environmental quality of forage-livestock systems in Virginia, largely through efforts with the Graze 300 program, tall fescue management, and silvopasture systems implementation.

Graze 300 Virginia helps producers achieve 300 days of grazing and documents the benefits. This target is considered the economic optimum across the combination of high and low cattle and feed prices. More information on Graze 300 Virginia can be found here:

Successful tall fescue management involves mitigating the negative effects of toxic fescue or replacing this forage. Mitigation involves appropriate fertilization and grazing management and incorporating other forages into livestock systems. Replacement involves helping producers switch to better forages. 

Silvopastures, the intentional integration of trees and pasture systems, is a new idea for many Virginia producers. Silvopasture systems offer opportunity to increase outputs, diversify production and income streams, and to improve economic and environmental outcomes. More information can be found here:

Industrial hemp

Past efforts with bioenergy production led to an interesting career turn. Many of the issues relevant to bioenergy – e.g., how do industries advance without processors or markets? – are also relevant to industrial hemp.  I work with colleagues and industry to help develop and disseminate information on suitable agronomic management practices for feed, fiber and flower hemp production in Virginia. General information about hemp can be found here:

Book Chapters

  1. Ely, K., S. Podder, M. Reiss, J.H. Fike. 2022. Sustainable uses, opportunities, and current limitations for hemp. In (Agrawal, ed.) Cannabis/Hemp for Healthcare, Green Materials, and Sustainable Agriculture. Springer Nature.
  2. Ely, K., S. Podder, M. Reiss, J.H. Fike. 2022. Industrial hemp as a crop for a sustainable agriculture (and beyond). In (Agrawal, ed.) Cannabis/Hemp for Healthcare, Green Materials, and Sustainable Agriculture. Springer Nature.
  3. Ely, K., J. H. Fike. 2022. Industrial hemp and hemp byproducts as sustainable feedstuffs in livestock diets.  In (Agrawal, ed.) Cannabis/Hemp for Healthcare, Green Materials, and Sustainable Agriculture. Springer Nature.
  4. Pent, G. J. & Fike, J. H. 2020. Enhanced ecosystem services provided by silvopastures. Pp 141-171. In Udawatta, R. P. & Jose, S. (eds.), Agroforestry and Ecosystem Services. Springer. New York, NY. 510 pp.
  5. Fike, J.H., V.N. Owens, D.J. Parrish, R. Genedy. 2020. Sustainable use of switchgrass for biofuels. In (C. Saffron, ed.) Achieving carbon negative bioenergy systems from plant materials. Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing.
  6. Pent, G.J., J.H. Fike, J. N. Orefice, S.H. Sharrow, D. Brauer, T. R. Clasen. 2018. Silvopastoral Practices. In Gold et al. (ed.) North American Agroforestry.

Research Journal Articles

  1. Keyser, P.D.; Buehler, D.A.; Fike, J.H.; Finke, D.L.; Fuhlendorf, S.D.; Martin, J.A.; Baumann, H.D.; Smith, S.R. The Birds and the Bees: Producing Beef and Conservation Benefits on Working Grasslands. Agronomy 2022, 12, 1934.
  2. Poudel, S., J.H Fike, G.J Pent. 2022. Hair Cortisol as a Measure of Chronic Stress in Ewes Grazing Either Hardwood Silvopastures or Open Pastures. Agronomy. Special Issue Management of Grasslands: Forage Growth and Nutritive Composition, Livestock Grazing and Performance.
  3. Battaglia, M.L.  W.E. Thomason, J.H. Fike, G.K. Evanylo, R.D. Stewart, C.D. Gross, M. Seleiman, E. Babur, A. Sadeghpour, M.T. Harrison. 2022. Corn and wheat residue management effects on greenhouse emissions in the Mid-Atlantic USA. Land. Available online:
  4. Tracy, B., J. Fike, K. Brennan, T. Blackmon, S. Kaur. 2022. Evaluation of alfalfa (Medicago sativa) and Sericea lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata) to improve animal performance in a tall fescue-based grazing system.
  5. Hoover, A.N., R. Emerson, M. Cortez, V. Owens, E. Wolfrum, C. Payne, J. Fike, J. Crawford, R. Crawford, R. Farris, J. Hansen, E. Heaton, S. Kumar, H. Mayton, D. 2022. Key environmental and production factors for understanding variation in switchgrass chemical attributes. GCB Bioenergy. 14:776-792.
  6. Mayton, H., M. Amirkhani, M. Loos, B. Johnson, J. Fike, C. Johnson, K. Myers, J. Starr, G. Bergstrom, A.Taylor. 2022. Evaluation of seed treatments on industrial hemp for enhanced stand establishment and management of damping off. Agriculture. 12(5) 10.3390/agriculture12050591
  7. Wilkens, P., J. F. Munsell, J. H. Fike, G. J. Pent , G. E. Frey, A. K. Downing. 2021. Thinning Forests or Planting Fields? Producer Preferences for Establishing Silvopasture. Agroforestry Systems.
  8. Wilkens, P., J. F. Munsell, J. H. Fike, G. J. Pent , G. E. Frey. 2021. Is livestock producer interest in silvopasture related to their operational perspectives or characteristics?  Agroforestry Systems. 

Refereed Journal Articles

  1. Pent, G. J. & Fike, J. H. 2018. Stockpiled forages and lamb productivity during the winter months in silvopastures. Agroforestry Systems. doi:10.1007/s10457-018-0264-0
  2. 1Pent, G.J, J.H. Fike, I. Kim. 2018. Ewe lamb body temperatures in hardwood silvopastures. Agrofor. Syst. DOI 10.1007/s10457-018-0221-y. Available on line.
  3. 1Fannon, A.G., J.H. Fike, S.P. Greiner, C.M. Feldhake, M.A. Wahlberg. 2017. Hair sheep performance in a mid-stage deciduous Appalachian silvopasture. Agrofor. Syst. DOI 10.1007/s10457-017-0154-x. Available on line.
  4. Lee, D. K., E. Aberle, E. K. Anderson et al. 2017. Biomass production of herbaceous energy crops in the united states: field trial results and yield potential maps from the multiyear Regional Feedstock Partnership. Global Change Biology Bioenergy. 10:698-716.
  5. Fike, J. H., J. A. Pease, V. N. Owens, R. L. Farris, J. L. Hansen, E. A. Heaton, H. S. Mayton, R. B. Mitchell, D. R. Viands. 2017. Switchgrass nitrogen response and cost of production on diverse sites. Global Change Biology Bioenergy. 9:1526-1542.
  6. Gray, D.J., H. Baker, K. Clancy, R. C. Clarke, K. deCesare, J. Fike, M. J. Gibbs, F. Grotenhermen, N. C. Kane, K. G. Keepers, D. P. Land, R. C. Lynch, J. P. Mendieta, M. Merlin, K. Müller-Vahl, C. S. Pauli, B. J. Pearson, B. Rhan, T. C. Ruthenberg, C. J. Schwartz, S. B. Tittes, D. Vergara, K. H. White, R. N. Trigiano. 2016. Current and future needs and applications for cannabis. Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences. 35:425-426.
  7. Fike, J.H. 2016. Industrial hemp: Renewed opportunities for an ancient crop. Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences. 35:406-424. Invited Review.

Extension publications

  1. Britt, K., J. Fike, M. Flessner, C. Johnson, T. Kuhar, T. McCoy, D. Reed. Integrated Pest Management of Hemp in Virginia ENTO-349NP
  2. Fike and Pent. 2019. Strategies for Managing Endophyte-Infected Tall Fescue – a Whole-Farm Approach.
  3. Fike, J., G. Pent. 2019. Tall Fescue, Endophytes and Alkaloids, and Fescue Toxicosis.
  4. Fike, J., M. Flessner. 2019.  No-Till Seeding of Forage Grasses and Legumes. SPES-92P
  5. Fike, J., G. Pent, O. Abaye. Warm-season annual grasses for summer forage. 2019.
  6. Fike, J., G. Pent 2019. Fescue toxicosis and some strategies to mitigate alkaloids. VCE Publication SPES-6.
  7. Fike, J., A. Downing, J. Munsell, G. Frey, K. Mercier, G. Pent. , C. Teutsch, J.B. Daniel, J. Fisher, M. Adams, T. Groh. 2017. Creating Silvopastures - Some considerations when planting trees into Pastures. VCE Publication CSES-185P.
  8. Fike, J., A. Downing, J. Munsell. 2016. Defining silvopastures: Integrating tree production with forage-livestock systems for economic, environmental, and aesthetic outcomes.