Tree windbreaks and shelter benefits to pasture in temperate grazing systems

  • Bird P
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The effects of windbreaks on pastures are reviewed, with an emphasis on temperate grazing systems. Mechanisms of plant response to shelter are dealt with in brief. Few papers on measured responses of pasture species to shelter were located in a search of the global literature for the period 1972–97. Except in cold climates, where the benefits of snow-trapping on water availability can be demonstrated, there were few reports of increased production of pasture in response to shelter. A significant result was obtained in a summer rainfall environ- ment in Australia, where a 43% increase in wool production was obtained over three years in small plots sheltered with iron sheeting on the fences. The gain was attributed to increased pasture growth. In New Zealand, one study over three years with a narrow, permeable shelter- belt in a windy, dry summer environment showed a 60% increase in pasture growth in the sheltered zone. However, another study on a high rainfall site with a dense, wide shelterbelt found no substantial shelter effect on pasture. In dry, hot and windy climates there appears to be scope for protecting spray-irrigated pasture with windbreaks. The feasibility of evaluating shelter effects on pastures or crops from old windbreaks is questioned. Variability of soil over the site can not be satisfactorily accounted for and there are problems in defining the true ‘unshel- tered’ yield. Shelter effects on pastures could best be determined by comparing production in small completely sheltered plots and open plots. Effects in and near the competitive zone should be measured for living windbreaks. Modelling could then be used to evaluate windbreak systems. We are not yet in a position to provide unequivocal advice to farmers on windbreak outcomes for particular purposes or regions. Introduction

Author-supplied keywords

  • Forage
  • Grass
  • Pasture
  • Plant
  • Shelterbelt

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  • P. R. Bird

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