It pays to plant windbreaks
Financial and technical assistance is available from USDA in many counties to help eligible Iowa hog farmers and other livestock producers install natural windbreaks to surround confinement buildings. Windbreaks provide energy savings and other environmental and aesthetic benefits.
Through USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program, or EQIP, eligible Iowa landowners can receive $862 or more per acre to install a windbreak planted around farmsteads and building sites. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service administers the EQIP program.
• Windbreaks planted around livestock buildings provide environmental benefits.
• Windbreaks return economic benefits, too, such as lower heating and cooling costs.
• It pays to plant windbreaks; cost-share and technical assistance are available.
These types of windbreaks, also called shelterbelts, typically include a minimum of three rows of trees and shrubs — an inside row of shrubs for odor control and outside rows of hardwood and conifer trees. “The tree and shrub species selection for each farm depends on soil type and the goal of the landowner,” says Becky Hanson, soil conservation technician with NRCS at Northwood in northern Iowa.
Besides improving air quality through odor reduction, windbreaks around buildings can be designed to protect against northwest winds in winter, allow southern breezes in summer, provide a noise or visual screen, manage snow, and attract wildlife. Windbreaks and shelterbelts can reduce wind-induced soil erosion and save heating and cooling costs on farmsteads. Properly placed to shield buildings from winds, windbreaks can lower heating and cooling costs by up to 20%.
Planting trees on the farm
There are a number of benefits for planting trees on the farm, including the positive impact they have on the environment. One tree planting activity that’s been successful in bringing the farm and environmental communities together in Iowa is the Green Farmstead Partner program.
The Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers, or CSIF, with the help of Trees Forever and the Iowa Nursery and Land-scape Association, launched the Green Farmstead Partner program two years ago to encourage farmers to plant trees around livestock buildings. The on-farm program offers cost-effective assistance to farm families wanting to plant trees and shrubs around new and existing cattle feedlots, hog barns and poultry buildings.
Despite high corn and soybean prices, farmers continue to request information about planning and installing windbreaks. In some cases, farmers are taking crop acres out of production in order to plant windbreaks.
“This is a true testament of the commitment livestock farmers have for the environment,” says Brian Waddingham, executive director of CSIF. “Every year, farmers remain committed to protecting and sustaining the environment for generations to come. We are excited about this program and glad to play a role in the ‘greening’ of Iowa’s livestock farms.”
Planting trees provides benefits for neighbors, too. Installing trees and shrubs improves neighborhood aesthetics and creates a more pleasant working condition for farmers and employees.
The big advantage of planting a windbreak or shelterbelt is reduction of energy costs on the farm. Strategically placed, windbreaks can act as snow fences, dropping snow in front of the buildings instead of on the roof or around access roads, feed bins or fans.
Other vegetation can be tactically planted to shade the summer sun and to cool the air before it enters inlets or curtains on livestock buildings.
Johnson is a public affairs specialist for USDA-NRCS in Des Moines.
This article published in the November, 2011 edition of WALLACES FARMER.