April's Ag Advice by April Borders Windbreaks/shelterbelts are an integral part of many South Dakota farm and ranch operations. They protect man, animals, crops and buildings from cold winter winds, hot summer winds and deep snow. Windbreaks prevent wind erosion and provide wildlife habitat.
In areas where snow provides a critical source of soil moisture, windbreaks increase the probability of successful crop production by capturing and distributing the snow across fields. Where snow is not a major source of soil moisture, windbreaks still provide valuable winter protection to fall planted crops by reducing soil erosion and decreasing plant abrasion and desiccation. With proper design and management, windbreaks can provide benefits to soil and water resources in most agricultural regions.
The government has encouraged planting windbreaks as far back as 1873 when they passed the Timber Culture Act. Under this act, if a homesteader would plant trees on a 10 to 40 acre block of their 160-acre claim, the government would provide title to the land. This offer continued until 1891 when it was repealed.
Later in the 1930s, the United States government started another program to plant belts of trees across the prairie. The purpose of the Prairie States Forestry Project was to establish windbreaks throughout the plains states to protect soils from wind erosion. The project came to an end with the beginning of World War II; over millions of trees had been planted on 30,000 farms. Unfortunately, many windbreaks that were planted in the 1930s and 1940s are losing their effectiveness due to age, poor health or neglect.
Windbreaks are investments in the future value of your property. A successful windbreak planting depends on proper establishment and care. While maintenance should be done throughout the life of the windbreak, renovation can be done on older and neglected sites.
The South 2 Field Education Unit will hold a program on Shelterbelt Design and Management on Tuesday, March 11. The program will be offered in two locations. The first session will be at 1:30 p.m. at the Beresford Library and again at 6:30 p.m. at the 4-H Center in Yankton. The program is free and is open to the public.
Topics to be covered will be how to properly construct a shelterbelt/windbreak, design principle, tree species selection, shelterbelt management and renovation, weed control and herbicide use. Speakers at the program will be Darrell Deneke, IPM coordinator, South Dakota State University; Connie Wulff, district manager, Clay County Conservation District; and me, April Borders, Clay County Extension educator, agronomy.
If you have any questions or need more information about this or any of the programs that we are offering, please feel free to contact the Extension Office at 677-7111.
March 7 � Alfalfa Production Meeting � Meckling.
March 10 � PAT Session � Canton.
March 11 � Shelterbelt Design and Management � Beresford and Yankton.
March 13 � Lawn and Tree Troubleshooting � Freeman and Vermillion.
March 25 � Final PAT Session � Vermillion.