Breaking Wind – While Improving Air Quality, Soils, and Diversifying
Breaking wind isn’t always a bad thing, it can actually bring a smile to your face! If you look around and notice snirt (dirty snow), you are seeing one reason to break wind. During the snowy months we are able to see some of the soil erosion from wind, much of the material is in suspension up in the air and travels thousands of miles. Remember the yellow/brown snow last winter? That was soil from Texas blowing our way. Minnesota soils have been found in New York, I believe those are some pretty good reasons to start breaking wind.
Wind erosion in Minnesota on average actually contributes to more soil loss than water erosion but we aren’t able to see the whole picture with the sediment blowing in wind and depositing when there isn’t snow, Wind erosion causes high losses of organic matter because of particle sizes and how light in weight it is so we’re loosing the best of what we have. We also have issues with wind cutting young crop plants by sheer force and/or combined with the soil particles in the air damaging the crops.
What can we do about it? Well, there are many courses of action we can take including keeping the soil covered, keep a living root, reduce disturbances, but also providing barriers to slow the wind down can greatly reduce our wind erosion. The other positive of using windbreaks – plant species that you can get an economic gain from, diversify. There are a variety of shrub and tree species that grow in Minnesota and finding well suited and beneficial species is possible.
Windbreaks can increase humidity and air temperature which “on average, associated with a 6 to 44 percent increase in crop yield,” University of Minnesota Extension.
Which species to choose? There are considerations to keep in mind when planning windbreaks:
Your location, what species will thrive in your region, soils, and wetness/dryness of your soil
What are your objectives besides breaking wind?
You’ll also want to consider how long the species take to grow, are they fast or slow growing?
How many resources are you willing to provide for management (bud capping, pruning, etc)
Some species don’t like to be planted by other species – think high school cliques
When do you want to be able to harvest from your windbreak?
A great comprehensive guide called the Minnesota SWCD Tree Handbook is available online at https://www.anokaswcd.org/images/AnokaSWCD/Products/Tree_Shrubs/tree_handbook.pdf
Or stop in to your local conservation office to get more information on species and planning windbreaks-many SWCD’s are currently accepting tree orders so it’s a great time to inquire!