By Thomas Driscoll, NFU Director of Conservation Policy and Education

Installing vegetative barriers, defined by the US Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA NRCS)  as “permanent strips of stiff, dense vegetation established along the general contour of slopes or across concentrated areas,” is another way producers can adapt to and mitigate climate change.  Vegetative barriers reduce erosion by blocking and slowing precipitation flowing over slopes or concentrated flow areas. Counteracting erosion encourages good soil health, and the supplementary vegetation stores additional carbon.

Vegetative barriers can enhance other conservation practices discussed here in the Climate Column, including stripcropping, filter strips, and grassed waterways.  However, these barriers aren’t well-suited for shallow soils, and changes to surface and subsurface water resulting from their installation may need to be addressed.

In addition to climate benefits, vegetative barriers can enhance food and cover for wildlife. In some cases, the barriers may be designed to attract beneficial insects to, or draw harmful insects away from, adjacent crops.

Do you manage a vegetative barrier on your farm? Why or why not? Please share your thoughts and impressions on this practice in the comments section!

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