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Windbreaks in the United States: A systematic review of producer-reported benefits, challenges, management activities and drivers of adoption

Agricultural Systems


Windbreaks are an agroforestry practice used to provide simultaneous economic, environmental and social benefits that occur when trees are deliberately integrated into an agroecosystem. To date, no systematic review has been conducted on windbreak adoption in the U.S., which is needed to assess whether broader trends exist that may affect future research, extension delivery and policy development. This synthesis covers windbreak adoption studies in the U.S. from the earliest identified study in 1949 through 2020. A key finding from this synthesis is that producers use windbreaks on agricultural lands mostly for indirect economic benefits (soil erosion control, livestock protection, wind protection and snow control). This is followed by direct agricultural benefits (increased crop and livestock production) and intrinsic values (aesthetics and wildlife habitat). Direct economic benefits from forestry (timber and non-timber forest products) were often ranked last, despite most producers utilizing their windbreak trees for some economic gain. Windbreak satisfaction was also found to be high among U.S. producers (72-99%), with the beneficial functions varying by windbreak type (field, livestock, and farmstead). The main drivers causing producers to remove windbreaks were poor condition, age, and conflict with farming practices, while the primary reasons for non-adoption of windbreaks were lack of land and windbreak upkeep. Key information gaps needing further investigation include a greater understanding of producer-reported challenges and management activities associated with windbreak planting and maintenance, identifying and monetizing windbreak systems capable of producing marketable products, and valuation of ecosystem services provided by windbreaks over space and time and the potential for developing those markets.

Author(s): Smith, MM; Bentrup, G; Kellerman, T; MacFarland, K; Straight, R; Ameyaw, L

Journal: Agricultural Systems

Year: 2021


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