High temperatures and lack of rainfall can dry out your land and even stifle the growth of your plants. But did you know that wind is another factor that can harm your yields?
Exposed areas are subjected to strong winds that can damage and kill your plants, suck moisture away from your land, and even degrade top soil as your latest nutrients are blown away. Windy, open land can also harm livestock: the wind-chill lowers their temperature and can be lethal on cold days, in addition to making your livestock hungrier from the effort of staying warm.
A simple solution is a windbreak – also known as a shelterbelt on larger land – which reduces wind speed and provides protection for plants and livestock. This line of defence can comprise of hedges, fences, or rows of trees.
Why grow trees around your land?
By planting a windbreak, you can protect your soil and crops from the damage of harsh winds and hard-hitting rainfall.
A windbreak also works to:
- Slow the wind speed, preventing windrock of shallow-rooted plants and damage to fruit and foliage.
- Reduce moisture loss from soil and plants.
- Limit salt-laden air from affecting your crop in coastal areas.
- Minimise soil erosion, especially light soils that are sandy.
- Offer shelter for pollinating insects.
- Restore soil organic matter from fallen leaves, improving the soil quality and reducing surface water run-off.
Where to plant your windbreak
Windbreaks should face the direction that the wind is coming from.
Some exposed farms may need shelter on several sides, such as hilly land with wind coming in from different directions. This is because wind can be funnelled between hills, valleys, or tall buildings, creating what is known as a ‘wind tunnel’.
Keep your new plantings well mulched and well watered until they are established. Once established, pruning your windbreak annually can help it to grow back denser.
Tips for planting a windbreak
To be effective, the windbreak must be longer than the area you have planted. The windless region is known as a wind shadow.
You need to also consider what you plant and how you space them. A solid barrier is not suitable as it would force the wind into high-speed streams around the object, instead of slowing it down. A functional windbreak is semi-permeable and ideally filters 50% of the wind to reduce its strength and soften the effects on your land.
The perfect solution is to plant shrubs between trees. Since a dense line of evergreens can act like a solid barrier and entirely deciduous trees would be ineffective windbreaks during winter, make sure to alternate between trees that keep their leaves year-round and those that drop them.
Planting bushy shrubs between the trees will slow the wind at ground level, while the trees slow the wind above.
Windbreaks as part of your farm plan
Combined with a planting plan, irrigation set up and soil management techniques, windbreaks will form an essential component of your flourishing farm. To benefit from well established trees and shrubs on your farm, the earlier you can plant a windbreak the better. If well maintained, a shelterbelt of trees will last forever, with thinning of plants required every 15-20 years. It is an investment which you will reap the benefits of for years to come.
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