Renovate Windbreaks to Bolster Effectiveness

Renovate Windbreaks to Bolster Effectiveness

November 21, 2008

As windbreaks age, they deteriorate and simple maintenance may not assure their continued efficiency, said a Nebraska Forest Service specialist.

By walking the windbreak from time to time, a landowner can keep tabs on its health, said Conservation Forestry Specialist Steve Lyda. These checkups allow landowners to see when water's needed, when a dead branch needs to be removed or when a newly established windbreak is getting too much competition from weeds or grass. They also allow for assessing any insect or disease damage.

Dead or dying trees are a good indicator that some kind of renovation may be advised, Lyda said. If the renovation starts early enough, new trees can make the old windbreak more effective before trees have to be removed or replaced. Are there gaps in the windbreak that affect its performance? Does the windbreak provide enough protection for the farmstead?

As cedars mature, their lower limbs die so the lower protection from the wind is absent. To fill that gap, landowners can plant shrub rows.

There are several kinds of renovations, Lyda said. The most drastic is complete removal and replacement. That might be necessary if the windbreak is 40 to 50 years old with a lot of Siberian elm, which have a very short life span.

Another kind of renovation might involve removing or replacing an entire tree row or even several rows. Either method would require heavy equipment and possibly reworking the ground and mulching the site.

A third kind of renovation would remove and replace individual trees that have been damaged by insects or disease or have died.

For a major renovation, landowners might want to consult a forester or soil conservationist. There may be opportunities to interplant rows or add rows to the windward side of an existing windbreak before renovating the interior.

Most Natural Resources Districts include windbreak renovation among approved cost-share practices. They also can help determine the windbreak's condition. Landowners can contact the local forest service, NRCS or NRD office.

Faith Colburn
Communication Specialist
West Central REC