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Wildlife Habitat

Solutions: Shelterbelts

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There are 4 areas of consideration when dealing with solutions: Acreages, Farm Ponds, Shelter Belts and Yards.

While establishment of farmstead, cattle lot or field protecting tree stands requires more information than can be presented here, there are a few basics which may help.

It is of utmost importance, however, to establish first how important a role shelterbelts play in reducing the impact of severe weather conditions both cold and hot and the many other advantages they offer. The importance as a windbreak is readily appreciated, but perhaps other factors are of more importance.

Crop yields, for example, have been increased tremendously by protection offered by a nearby stand of trees. This is both from holding winter snow for use in summer, and reducing the evaporation of moisture in summer by winds.

Selection of species for shelterbelts should be done on an individual basis to match soils, terrain, rainfall and other considerations. Also, the length and width of the belt may vary, but certain aspects can be of much greater benefit to wildlife than others. Cedars are valuable for winter cover, for example, and bushy plants that provide food are desirable. Ten rows of different tree species and shrubs, with undergrowth allowed to establish in some, can become excellent habitat. When crops are planted adjacent, wildlife finds life much easier. But, a real advantage is in saving moisture, and this benefit should not be overlooked.

Deep-growing tap roots will not sap moisture from adjacent crops as much as shallow, spreading tree roots, such as cottonwood, so selection is important. And, retention of winter moisture more than makes up for summer's use, so yields are increased. One test in 1976 on two 40 acre plots resulted in 55 bushels per acre yield on the windbreak plot, and only 10 bushels per acre on the other. When all preparation and material costs were considered, the harvest meant over $93 per acre profit for the windbreak plot, and a $7 per acre loss for the "barren" field.

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