Windbreaks: A Strategy for Crop Protection and Income Generation

Farm Operation: 160 Hectare (400 Acre) Cash Crop Farm and Sawmill

The 4,500 trees in Bob Taylor's windbreak protect his crops from the damaging effects of prevailing winds and provide habitat for nesting birds.

Bob Taylor - Zorra Township

Bob Taylor - Zorra Township

Bob was inspired to plant a windbreak of his own after attending a windbreak workshop in 1982 at the University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus. He has been working closely with his local conservation authority ever since. He maintains that the conservation authorities are valuable partners when planning and planting a windbreak. Their role in conducting farm assessments and guiding site preparations a year prior to planting the trees is valuable for establishing a successful windbreak.

Layout

The west and east side of Bob's farm are bordered with two-row windbreaks consisting of Norway spruce and white cedar. Bob believes these species are a good combination in the double row format, but they would also work well in a single row windbreak when planted in an alternating stock pattern.

Return on Investment

The most noticeable benefits from the windbreaks are financial. For Bob, windbreaks have increased his financial returns by:

  1. Increasing crop yields by reducing wind speed and soil erosion and by trapping eroding soil particles.
  2. Offering wood that he can process in his sawmill and sell as lumber.

As land values have increased, Bob realizes it is vital to maximize the land he has for crop production. Even though windbreaks use some of his cropland, he believes that the windbreaks make a significant difference to his crop yields and provide an additional revenue source.


"I think it has been a success. Certainly in ways that I hadn't anticipated, such as:

  • shelter from the winds
  • shade from the sun
  • a place for birds to nest
  • increased crop yields

And I wouldn't give these trees up for all the money in the world." - Bob Taylor


Windbreak Management

To help the trees to grow and to remain healthy, Bob thinned the windbreak once in the last 20 years and is planning to thin it again. In Bob's opinion, "even though pruning and thinning is hard work, it is necessary for tree health."

Bob Taylor taking a walk along his windbreak with a conservation authority forester.

Bob Taylor taking a walk along his windbreak with a conservation authority forester.

Removing low-hanging branches protects farm equipment from potential damage from stray branches.

The trees were machine planted and band sprayed with simazine for grass and weed control.

Future

Bob hopes to continue to use the products from his windbreak and sawmill to finish constructing his new home. He also uses his sawmill to process lumber received from local clients.

Bob's portable sawmill for processing rough windbreak logs into dimensional lumber.

Bob's portable sawmill for processing rough windbreak logs into dimensional lumber.

Windbreak Maintenance – Benefits and Tips

  • Promote a healthier windbreak by conducting routine maintenance, thinning and inspections.
  • Remove low-hanging branches to reduce the risk of damage to farm equipment.
  • Trim double leaders (two shoots that grow from the stem/branch at the top of the tree) so that the tree grows straighter, grows more rapidly and offers crop protection sooner.
  • Thin limbs or remove stems of mature windbreaks to create an income opportunity, such as selling wood as fence posts, firewood and sawlogs.
  • Use tactics to emit odour and repel deer, such as soap dispensers and tree guards, to improve tree survival for quicker growth. Quicker growth results in greater productivity and protection of the surrounding crops and trees.
  • Remove nuisance perennial weeds, such as wind grapevines and invasive buckthorn that can kill windbreak trees.

Watch our windbreak videos.


For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca
Author: OMAFRA Staff
Creation Date: 19 November 2013
Last Reviewed: 19 November 2013