April 25, 2017

Guidance for Spring Tree Selection

Spring is finally here! Planning a tree planting? Selecting the right trees for the right purpose is key to enabling trees to reach their full potential. When properly planted, trees can last a lifetime, so spending time to research the best trees for your location will pay off in the long run. Here are a few tips and tricks for successful selection.

What will the purpose of your trees be? Windbreaks, odor control and shade are common purposes for incorporating trees on livestock farms. Considering the purpose of your planting will positively impact tree life and effectiveness.

Accounting for mature height when selecting trees can prevent many issues when trees reach full size. Spread and height of trees vary due to soil and other environmental conditions. Researching the amount of space you have to work with can help you avoid trees growing into power lines, overcrowding, and interfering with views. Less maintenance is needed when appropriate sized trees are selected. 

Pest Susceptibility 
Knowledge of tree susceptibility to pests and diseases can often make or break the longevity of your tree planting. Every tree species has particular pest problems and each varies geographically. Select tree species that will be tolerant of the pests in your area.

Familiarity with Iowa's USDA Hardiness Zone Map is important when considering the ideal tree selection. Most of Iowa falls within hardiness Zone 5 where average minimum temperatures range between -10 and -20 degrees Fahrenheit. However, there are a few small pockets in northwest and northeast Iowa that fall within Zone 4, where average minimum temperatures range from -20 to -25 degrees Fahrenheit.

Tolerance to heat and drought are also important to consider as hot, dry weather weakens trees. Following the map considerations will help to avoid premature tree loss and save you money! 

Soil and Sun Conditions
Soil and sun attributes strongly affect trees and shrubs. The quality and amount of soil can limit tree growth if not taken into account prior to planting. Soil surveys are extremely beneficial in determining the type of soil on your farm.

The amount of sunlight available will also affect tree selection. Most woody plants require full sunlight to thrive. Some can do well in light shade but very few do well in densely shaded areas.

For questions and concerns when determining species selection, call 1-800-932-2436 or visit http://www.supportfarmers.com/programs/green-farmstead-partner-program. We’ll connect you with one of our landscape or nursery professionals participating in the Green Farmstead Partner program. 

By: Emma Wilson, CSIF Intern

March 22, 2017

Water: For You. For Trees. For Livestock.

Water is one of the most vital resources for all living things. Clean drinking water is fundamental for a healthy and viable human life, but did you know water quality is just as important to livestock as it is to humans?

The quality of streams, rivers, lakes and watersheds are crucial to the well being and productivity of livestock. The incorporation of trees on livestock farms are key to protecting the quality of surrounding water sources while also increasing sustainability within an operation.

Practices to Protect Livestock Drinking Waters
One management practice for protecting water resources is silvopasture. This is the process of incorporating trees and grazing livestock operations within the same land. Numerous benefits arise when silvopasture is introduced. A cooler summer environment is provided for area livestock as well as shorter rotations due to higher forage fertilization and competition control. Water quality can be impacted as well. Deep tree roots and plant roots can acquire nutrients from a greater range of soil depths before they make it to the nearby streams and rivers.

With proper design and management, windbreaks can be very helpful in maintaining water quality as well as soil erosion. The more trees and shrubs that are present in a windbreak, the more excess nutrients and pollutants are stopped from reaching area livestock drinking waters. Trees and shrubs help to filter surface runoff and encourages the infiltration of groundwater. Additionally, root growth and plant debris stabilize the soil and slow erosion by holding steep slopes in place.

Alley Cropping
Growing crops between rows of long-term trees, known as alley cropping, is beneficial in reducing soil erosion and improving water quality as well. Tree roots are generally deeper than crop roots enabling the tree roots to intercept nutrients and chemicals before reaching the crop roots.This decreases overland flow of water and reduces top-soil erosion from fields.

Riparian Forest Buffers
A riparian forest buffer, also known as a buffer strip, are found incorporated along streams and rivers containing an array of native trees and plant life. These buffers are very beneficial for clean water within large bodies of water. Acting as a filter for surface waters, excess nutrients and pollutants are absorbed by these plants and trees before reaching major water sources. Riparian vegetation also aids in slowing flood waters, therefore helping to maintain stable stream banks and protect downstream properties from erosion.

Now is the perfect time to start planning your year for clean water. Celebrate World Water Day on March 22nd by taking part in incorporating trees, shrubs or even a windbreak by visiting  http://www.supportfarmers.com/programs/green-farmstead-partner-program.

By: Emma Wilson, CSIF Intern 

February 10, 2017

Designed with Livestock in Mind

      From improving site aesthetics to enhancing neighbor relations, a properly planted windbreak can serve many functions on the farm. Most importantly, trees can protect livestock from inclement weather conditions including harsh winds, blowing snow or extreme temperatures.

     Whether livestock are raised in a feedlot, pasture or barn setting, windbreaks should be designed to meet the specific needs of the farm. The layout and tree species incorporated in the windbreak can be customized for optimum protection and economic benefit. Let’s take a closer look at tree planting considerations in an outdoor and indoor animal environment. 

Uncontrolled Outdoor Environment
      In an outdoor setting, an ideal windbreak will protect livestock from prevailing winds and falling temperatures in the winter, and provide shade and guide breezes during the summer months.
     The goal is to establish protective screening that allows the animals to maintain their body temperatures and avoid susceptibility to heat or cold stress. Ultimately, this can lead to an increase in feed efficiency and improve overall animal health.

Controlled Indoor Environment
     Under roof, the animal environment can be adjusted based on outdoor conditions. However, this often comes at a cost. Windbreaks can help lessen the cost by reducing the amount of energy needed to heat or cool livestock barns.  

     Windbreaks are also an effective tool in depositing or redirecting snow in desired areas. For example, a well-designed windbreak can help keep snow away from driveways and storage facilities or even prevent roof collapses.

     At the end of the day, windbreaks are a great investment on any livestock farm. Start designing your windbreak by visiting http://www.supportfarmers.com/programs/green-farmstead-partner-program.

By Haley Banwart, CSIF Assistant Field Specialist