K-State Extension District Forester John Klempa talks to area producers about what options they have in terms of financial assistance for building and managing windbreaks Thursday evening at a workshop in the Plains Community Building. Dr. Charles Barden, an Extension forester, also discussed some tips for renovating windbreaks. L&T photo/Robert Pierce
By ROBERT PIERCE
• Leader & Times
It’s a well-known fact that the wind blows in Southwest Kansas, and with breezes that can sometimes move as fast as 60 to 70 miles per hour, the effects of that moving air can be somewhat devastating.
Those effects, however, can be lessened in rural areas with the use of windbreaks, and two K-State officials discussed how to renovate the rows of vegetation, as well as some of the financial assistance for managing them, at a workshop Thursday in Plains sponsored by K-State Research and Extension.
Dr. Charles Barden, a forester with the Extension, spoke first about some of the renovation projects that have been done in the area as well as some tips for maintaining them.
“Windbreaks are an integral part of many farms and ranches and provide critical protection for farmsteads, livestock and crops,” he said.
Unfortunately, Barden said many windbreaks planted in the 1930s and 1940s are losing their effectiveness due to age, poor health or neglect, so much so that the windbreak no longer has the necessary density to provide winter protection.
“In other cases, overcrowding may have reduced the health and vigor of the windbreak, or the windbreak may have been invaded by aggressive sod-forming grasses such as smooth brome, reducing tee growth,” he said. “Whatever the reason, many older windbreaks need renovation.”
Barden said all windbreaks, even well-designed ones, need regular maintenance in order to maintain their overall structure and to continue to function as effective wind barriers.
“While maintenance should be done throughout the life of the windbreak, windbreak renovation is usually restricted to older or neglected windbreaks,” he said.
John Klempa, district forester for the Kansas Forest Service, then talked about financial assistance which can be used to maintain windbreaks and other woodland areas, focusing primarily on the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative, which provides assistance through USDA’s Environmental Quality Health Incentives Program for Forestland Health.
CCIP provides assistance to manage forests and renovate old windbreaks in Kansas, Nebraska and the Dakotas.
“Forestland, windbreaks, cropland and grassland all have the potential to qualify for the program if a ‘resource concern’ is identified,” Klempa said.
Primary resource concerns for the program are the health and condition of trees in windbreaks and forests, soil erosion that impacts water associated with excessive sediment. Specific examples of resource concerns may include:
• Old windbreaks with gaps and dead trees or shrubs;
• Streambank erosion where additional tree planting can provide long-term reduction in soil loss; and
• Forest or woodlands that are overcrowded (need thinning) or would benefit from additional tree planting; or contain a high percentage of invasive or undesirable trees and shrubs.
CCPI-EQIP for Forestland Health payment rates are based upon regionwide average costs. The program is available statewide.
Applicants must meet agricultural producer requirements for EQIP. Forestry practices qualify and are exempt from the $1,000 annual minimum agricultural production requirement.
Tenants may apply with written support from landowners. Land must have a resource concern as determined by the Kansas Forest Service district foresters and/or NRCS district conservationists.
A forest management plan or Forest Stewardship Management plan is required. Plans are prepared by KFS district foresters at no cost to the applicant. Plans are not required prior to application, but they can speed up the process.
Applications are accepted continuously at county NRCS offices located in USDA Service Centers. However, the application evaluation period cutoff date for fiscal year 2013 was Feb. 15.
Locations and contact information are available on the Web at www.ks.nrcs.usda.gov by clicking on “Find a Service Center” at the bottom of the left-hand column.
NRCS will refer applicants to a Kansas Forest Service district forester who will visit the property and develop a management plan to guide the project.
“NRCS will then rank and prioritize the application based on criteria developed for Forestland Health and fund accordingly,” Klempa said. “After contracts are obligated by NRCS and plans are completed applicants may begin their projects.”