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Windbreak Establishment

By Martin Gugelman, Engineering Technician (Civil)
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Scott City, Kansas

Windbreaks can be a valuable asset to any farm or ranch. They can be used to reduce soil erosion and protect animals and people from wind and snow. They can even help to reduce noise or hide undesirable areas.

Many things can be used as windbreaks; however, vegetative windbreaks (trees) can protect large areas very cost effectively.

There are many different layouts or designs for vegetative windbreaks, but one thing remains constant. Windbreaks can be a challenge to get established— especially when moisture is in short supply. There are several ways to minimize moisture stress in newly planted windbreaks.

One fairly effective method is water conservation mulch, sometimes called “weed barrier.” This product is made of plastic strands that are woven together and will allow moisture to penetrate down through it while it minimizes the weed growth under it. Weed barrier can be obtained in varying widths and is generally installed either before tree planting (if hand planting) or just after planting (if machine planting). The weed barrier will slowly disintegrate as the trees get older and eventually will be gone when the trees no longer need it.

Another extremely effective method to establish a windbreak in areas of low precipitation or time of drought is microirrigation, commonly known as a “drip system.”

Drip systems can be installed in conjunction with water conservation mulch to greatly boost the survival rate of a newly planted windbreak. Drip system installations can vary by design, but they generally consist of a mainline to convey water from your source to the lateral lines that run along each row. There is also an emitter to deliver water at each tree as well as the necessary filter, gages, and fittings to make this all work.

Drip systems should be designed to match the layout of each individual windbreak. This can be accomplished with the help of your local Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office.
To learn more about conservation practices, please contact your local NRCS office or conservation district office located at your local county U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Service Center (listed in the telephone book under United States Government or on the internet at offices.usda.gov). More information is also available on the Kansas Web site at www.ks.nrcs.usda.gov. Follow us on Twitter @NRCS_Kansas. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.