January 9, 2017

Winter Guide to Windbreaks

     The holiday season may be over, but Old Man Winter remains. Tired of those inconvenient snow drifts piling up on your livestock farm? A properly planted windbreak can greatly reduce your time and effort spent on moving snow.

Two Approaches to Snow Control
     When it comes to windbreaks, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all tree planting. The design, location and species incorporated in your windbreak will all depend on your specific needs and typical winter conditions.

     In areas of high winds and blowing snow, windbreaks can be modified to do one of two things – either distribute the precipitation across a protected stretch of land, or deposit it in a designated area.

     To accomplish the first approach, a low density windbreak is established to allow snow to fall evenly across the farm. Uniform distribution not only reduces wind erosion on snow-covered fields, but captures moisture for water infiltration into the soil.

     The second snow control method calls for a dense, multiple row windbreak to pile snow in a restricted area. Designed as a living snow fence, this approach reduces the need to plow along driveways or around barns. Other benefits of a living snow fence include greater snow storage capacity, limited maintenance and a longer life span.

Designed with Livestock in Mind
     In addition to maintaining cleared lanes and driveways, windbreaks can reduce the amount of snow piling up around stored hay and feed. But most importantly, windbreaks provide a safe haven for your livestock.

     As you determine which windbreak design will best meet your goals, remember to consider how the tree planting will protect your farmsteads’ barns or feedlots and the livestock housed within those areas. Protection from strong winds and driving snow will help reduce animal stress, decrease feeding requirements and support animal health.

     At the end of the day, windbreaks protect you, your farm and your livestock. Ready to start planning your tree planting? Contact the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers or one of our partner nursery and landscape professionals. 

For more information, call 1-800-932-2436 or visit http://www.supportfarmers.com/programs/green-farmstead-partner-program.

By Haley Banwart, CSIF Assistant Field Specialist  

December 9, 2016

Trees: Your Long-Term, Low-Cost Solution

While there’s no silver bullet to completely mitigate livestock odors or control snow deposition, there is one solution many Iowa farmers turn to as the next best alternative – trees!  A properly designed windbreak not only reduces the impact of winds and inclement weather, but can dissipate odors, shift snowfall and enhance farm aesthetics.

In terms of sustainability and cost-effectiveness, trees are a valuable long-term, low-cost investment for new livestock farms as well as existing sites. Once they are established, trees function as a dependable tool - safeguarding your farm and the environment 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

During the hot and humid summer months, windbreaks help change wind patterns to redirect livestock odors. Odorous gases are moved and mixed higher into the air, and are diluted as particles descend to the ground or onto other plant material.

Throughout the cold and harsh winter months, trees act as a natural barrier to prevent drifting around buildings, barns and driveways. When it comes to snow management, who wouldn’t love to trade their hours operating a snow plow or scoop shovel for a simple one-step solution?

The recent arrival of winter weather in Iowa provides the perfect opportunity for you to stay indoors and plan for a future windbreak on your livestock farm. Remember to keep the following considerations in mind as you design your site.

To achieve the best results, plant windbreaks on the north, west or northwest area of the site. Windbreaks in this location will protect your farm from harsh winter winds while also blocking odors carried by summer breezes. The east, south and southwest sides should be left open at ground level to allow breezes to cool curtain wall ventilated buildings during warmer months.

Finally, although a single-row windbreak can help reduce winter winds, the most effective windbreaks should have a minimum of three rows. Use a variety of fast-growing and slow-growing trees to establish lasting protection while also providing your farm with immediate visual and buffering benefits.

For tree planting assistance and to learn more about the Green Farmstead Partner Program, contact the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers (CSIF) at 1-800-932-2436 or visit http://www.supportfarmers.com/programs/green-farmstead-partner-program

By Haley Banwart, CSIF Assistant Field Specialist  

November 15, 2016

Flowering Trees and Shrubs Add Seasonal Color on the Farm

Driving through the Iowa countryside it’s hard not to recognize the pleasing sights, sounds and aromas of the fall season. Brilliant bursts of fall foliage decorate the landscape, fallen leaves rustle in the autumn breeze and crisp, earthen scents fill the air.
            A similar aesthetic effect can be replicated in a windbreak design. Flowering trees and shrubs can provide a splash of seasonal color and release a pleasing floral fragrance on your livestock farm, all while reducing odor and protecting your site from prevailing winds and heavy snowfall.

            Flowering trees and shrubs are a valuable windbreak tool along roadways and near farm entrances. These plant species are visually appealing and allow landowners to personalize the landscape with attractive cultivars ranging from the common purple lilac to the brilliant red chokeberry.

            Depending on the function of the windbreak, the buffer may include several staggered rows of evergreens, shade trees and shrubs. Shrubs are generally planted on the outward facing row in order to achieve additional density and to create a striking appearance along the backdrop of other tree greenery.

            When considering row spacing, a general rule of thumb is to leave a minimum of three to six feet between plants and 10 feet between rows of shrubs that are less than 10 feet tall. For shrubs and flowering trees within the 10 to 25 feet range, space plants five to 10 feet apart within the row, and 12 feet between rows.

            Ready to spruce up your farm with a variety of ornamental trees and shrubs? Check out the following species from our plant gallery. The examples provided below produce stunning foliage and fruit during the fall season. 

Amur Maple – A hardy and adaptable, multi-stemmed flowering tree, the amur maple produces beautiful orange and scarlet autumn leaves.

Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry – The autumn brilliance serviceberry is a small, flowering tree known for its white flowers in the early spring, purple fruit and brilliant red-orange fall foliage.

Redoiser Dogwood – Known for its bright red bark and purple fall flora, the redoiser dogwood is an attractive shrub both during the fall and winter months.

Brilliant Red Chokeberry – While the brilliant red chokeberry produces white flowers in May, it also reveals fiery red foliage and berries in the fall.

By Haley Banwart, CSIF Assistant Field Specialist