Zombie trees: the wonder of windbreaks

This 5 year old windbreak near Yass was burnt only a few months ago, and is already regrowing vigorously from root stock.

The wonder of windbreaks

For hundreds of years farmers have known that plants make excellent natural windbreaks. More recently this age-old knowledge has been backed up by science.

Studies have shown that the shelter provided by rows of trees or shrubs can boost crop and livestock production – as well as reducing soil erosion which helps with the long-term productivity of the land.

Planting native species is also an important part of helping native animals and birds. Plus they’re more resilient to the very Australian phenomenon of fire.

What are wind breaks trying to stop?

The wind is a powerful force. Here are some of the serious impacts it can have on the farm:

  1. Wind erosion. Did you know that doubling wind speed can actually cause an eight-fold increase in soil erosion?
  2. Animal production losses. When combined with cold weather, strong winds can reduce the production and even kill farm animals.
  3. Physical damage to plants. Wind can cause devastating rubbing, sandblasting and leaf stripping.

How do natural windbreaks help farmers?

Five of the biggest benefits are:

  1. Providing shade.
  2. Helping control waterlogging and dryland salinity.
  3. Providing protection from erosion by water during heavy rain.
  4. Serving as an income source — from sale of timber and other tree products.
  5. Providing fodder during drought.

And of course, when native species are used there’s a knock-on benefit for biodiversity – so it’s great for farmers and for the animals they share the landscape with.

Information courtesy of Helen Cleugh

Read more about the uses of trees on farms