Home Ag News Farm Management Windbreaks Provide Permanent Protection During Drought
Windbreaks Provide Permanent Protection During Drought
Ag News - Farm Management
Monday, 25 February 2013 16:44

 

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- The second chapter of article 20 of Kansas state statutes
indicates "soil erosion caused by wind or dust storms is declared to be
destructive to the natural resources of the state and a menace to the health
and well-being of our citizens".  The statutes suggest it is the duty of
Kansas landowners "to conserve the natural resources of the state, and to
prevent the injurious effects of dust storm by planting perennial grasses,
shrubs, and trees" and introducing other emergency control measures. 


Kansas continues to experience extreme drought conditions over 76 percent of
the state with the remainder in exceptional drought.  These conditions have
created concern among Kansas State University soil scientists, agronomists
and foresters that severe dust storms and wind-blown soil erosion will occur
in late winter and spring of 2013.  Annually, an estimated 2 tons/acre/year
of topsoil is lost to wind erosion on the 24 million acres of cultivated
cropland in Kansas.  There is little doubt that 2013 will exceed that
average.  

"There are many conservation techniques that can reduce soil erosion such as
the integration of crop residues or performing emergency tillage to roughen
surfaces," according to Bob Atchison, rural forestry coordinator with the
Kansas Forest Service. "However, during drought years it is hard to beat the
time-tested shelterbelts and windbreaks to provide the most effective and
persistent control of wind erosion."

Tree and shrub windbreaks provide excellent wind protection at a distance 10
times the height of the windbreak.  In Kansas that equates to an estimated
579,221 acres protected based on the 289,577 acres of windbreaks that
stretch 43,436 miles in length, a length that would cross the state east to
west almost 100 times.

"In response to drought and dust storms of the 1930's, more than 200 million
trees and shrubs were planted to windbreaks on 30,000 farms throughout the
Great Plains between 1935 and 1942," Atchison said. "Unfortunately many of
these windbreaks have been removed to make way for pivot irrigation systems
and are continuing to be removed to make way for more farm ground due to
high prices for crops."  

Though many of the windbreaks established following the Dust Bowl were large
multi-row windbreaks, research shows effective wind control can be obtained
with two- to three-row windbreaks of trees or shrubs that don't require as
much space. Some producers raise concerns over loss of crop yields to
shelterbelts.  However, more than 30 years of research conducted by James
Brandle, forestry professor at the University of Nebraska, shows that wheat
yields actually increase by 15 percent on the average, corn by 12 percent
and soybeans by 17 percent when windbreaks were present.

"Though we have made great improvements in conservation over the years, our
current drought is a reminder of the important role windbreaks and
shelterbelts continue to play in Kansas," Atchison said.   

Kansas Forest Service foresters are available to help Kansas landowners with
windbreak design, planning and financial assistance opportunities by calling
785-532-3300 or by checking them out on the Web at www.kansasforests.org. 

 

 

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