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January 15, 2019

Those Wondering Working Woods - Trees and shrubs serve many beneficial purposes
The late Jimmy Dean, American singer and entrepreneur, once said, "I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”
Wind is a fact of rural life and anyone with a buffer of trees likely know and appreciate their value.  Those without some treed protection likely wish they had some.
Years ago, when traffic numbers were lower and speeds slower, homes located close to a road had much less dust and noise to deal with but still took advantage of the buffering qualities of leaves and branches.  Trees capture particles and reduce noise volume.
In an Ag Canada energy conservation study, two identical trailers were heated at 72 degrees Fahrenheit with one trailer protected and the other unprotected by trees. The result was a 27% reduction in heating cost for the protected building.  
Shelterbelts can help control farm odors. Multi-row windbreaks downwind of livestock facilities force air upward, mixing and diluting odors. 
Windbreaks significantly reduce downwind wind speed as the force is directed up and over the protected area.  A single row of trees 15 feet tall influences wind speeds up to 400 feet – the length of two professional hockey rinks.
The advantage gained in crop yields outweighs the oft-used argument that lingering snow from shelterbelts slows seeding.  Field studies in North Dakota and on the Canadian prairies shows mature shelterbelts provide a 3.5% increase in average wheat and 6.5% in alfalfa yields.
Studies show that beef cattle fed on unprotected winter range need up to 50% more feed to thrive with the advantage of increased milk production in dairy cattle. 
To mitigate drought, Alberta Agriculture recommends a two-year supply of water and captured snow is a difference maker for dugout levels.  The rule of thumb is a foot of snow equals one inch of water, so the more snow the greater the runoff, or infiltration into a dugout. 
Certain tree and shrub species are referred to as nature’s rebar when it comes to erosion control.  Tree roots help to hold soils, especially easily eroded, fine textured clay soils, together. 
Landowners lament when beaver remove mature trees but the root system of poplars go into reproduction mode the same way trees sucker after being cut with a chainsaw.  One solitary poplar can produce a lot of new trees.
Wooded areas become home to birds of prey that control mice, ground squirrels and pocket gophers.  Creating and maintaining habitat for woodpeckers provides an ally in controlling mountain pine beetle and other tree pests.
Although trees establish over a generation or two, don’t let that deter you from planting for the future.  When the future becomes today someone will thank you.

Upcoming Events
  • Clearwater County and its fellow Red Bow Agricultural Partnership friends are hosting Ladies Livestock Lessons winter workshop on Saturday, January 19 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Apple Creek Golf Course (north of Airdrie). Come learn, socialize and connect with other farming women. Topics include advocacy and social media, succession planning, grazing management and poisonous plant ID, farm animal care 101, and teaching the next generation. Break out sessions include hybrid vigor scoring and hands on fencing. For more information and to register:
  • EFP Workshop: Tuesday, February 5 from 1-5pm - Clearwater County Farmers and Ranchers are invited to join us for a FREE Online Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) Workshop. This is a chance to start, complete or update your EFP. This workshop will be held at the Rocky Learning Centre in Rocky Mountain House. Bring your own laptop or use one at the facility. For more information and to preregister, contact Agriculture and Community Services at 403-846-4040.
  • Looking to do more to strengthen your land to handle drought and flooding?  Consider Caring for my Land – the cost-share grant available to landowners in Clearwater County. With funding from the provincial Watershed Restoration and Resiliency Program. Examples include watering systems, fencing, seeding and planting trees and shrubs. Applications are available at Clearwater County’s Agriculture and Community Services office.
  • Mark your calendars for Celebrating our Successes storytelling event on March 13.  Details coming soon.

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