A windbreak is a tall, dense, continuous wall of vegetation meant to protect structures, roads or any other important areas from strong, driving winds, soil erosion and snow accumulation. A windbreak can also provide wildlife habitat, pleasing aesthetics and help lower energy costs for landowners. The Wisconsin state nurseries offer a variety of shrubs, hardwoods and conifers that landowners can use to enhance their property.
- Reduce energy costs and improve comfort - Use less energy for yourself and your utility company. Planting a row of conifer trees on the north and northwest sides of your property creates a wall against cold winter winds - saving your heating costs by up to 30%. Human comfort. Windbreaks around farm dwellings and rural communities improve quality of life for the inhabitants by reducing wind speed along with noise and dust. Established windbreaks increase property values and enhance aesthetic benefits.
- Less fossil fuel is consumed by the utility to create the energy, which means less carbon dioxide emissions.
- The best protection from wind occurs when the windbreak is no more than the distance of one or two tree heights from the house. The down-wind side of the trees is where the most snow accumulates, so plant your windbreak a one or two tree-height distance from your rooftop and driveway if you can.
- Boost crop yield and quality - By microclimate modification, field and orchard windbreaks have been shown to increase the yield of many different crops. Windbreak protection can be especially valuable in orchards and vineyards of high-value horticultural crops. IPM (Integrated Pest Management) By incorporating plants that attract beneficial insects, windbreaks can also serve to increase biological control of crop insect pests.
- Add specialty crops - Non-timber products. By using trees & shrubs that produce specialty food or decorative products, e.g. chokecherry or corkscrew willow, windbreaks can provide extra income.
- Improve animal survival and weight gain - Tree-sheltered havens, or living barns, within pastures can make the difference between death and survival for livestock subject to harsh weather conditions, e.g. newborn and newly-shorn sheep. Livestock performance, windbreaks around feedlots have been shown to improve the health and weight gain of cattle and sheep in cold climates.
- Produce timber from windbreaks - Multi row windbreaks of fast-growing species such as poplar can be sequentially thinned for timber products while maintaining continuity of shelter.
- Control wind erosion - Soil and water conservation. Windbreaks are proven effective in reducing wind erosion of light-textured soils. By dispersing snow evenly across fields, windbreaks help make more moisture available for crops.
- Manage snow dispersal - Snow control. Properly placed windbreaks prevent snow buildup around buildings and on roadways.
- Wildlife habitat - Trees and shrubs provide much-needed food and habitat for game birds and other wildlife.
- Carbon credits - It has been estimated that for each acre planted in field windbreaks, over 21 metric tons of carbon dioxide will be stored in the trees by age 20.