Research | Shelterbelts |


At the Brookdale and Johnson sites, MBFI is researching the benefits of including shelterbelts. This page provides information about this particular research project; including the background, objectives, and updates.


About This Project

Shelterbelts provide many ecological benefits including reduced soil erosion, riparian area protection, shoreline protection, reduced odours from animal production sites, reduced pesticide drift, reduced greenhouse gas accumulation in the atmosphere (carbon sequestration), improved water quality through filtering function, floodplain management, increased biodiversity and increased wildlife habitat. Each of these qualities benefits society as a whole as well as landowners.

Shelterbelts also provide many benefits in livestock pastures and calving areas. Reduced wind speed in winter lowers animal stress which improves animal health and increases feeding efficiency. Shelterbelts also protect the working environment in and around the livestock area as they screen noise and odours associated with livestock operations.

Two different shelterbelt designs will be utilized on annual cropland and a riparian area at Brookdale Farm: an intercropping design and an Eco-Buffer design. The intercropping (twin-row, high density) design will be planted in an annually cropped field to demonstrate ecological and economic benefits for livestock production. The Eco-Buffer design will be planted in a riparian area. This design will include food and timber species to not only demonstrate ecological benefits but also provide a potential alternate income stream for producers. Eco-Buffers, designed by researchers at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, are multiple rows of native trees and shrubs planted in a dense, mixed planting arrangement. Eco-Buffers could be located anywhere a traditional shelterbelt would be planted or a natural hedgerow may have existed. They can also be used to enhance existing natural hedgerows or to connect natural habitats such as a wetlands, riparian zones or wooded areas.

The purpose of the shelterbelts is to enhance biodiversity, conserve soil, protect water quality and sequester carbon.


  1. To demonstrate different shelterbelt designs or use in livestock systems and riparian areas.


As of August 2017- Approximately 280 trees were planted in early May at both Brookdale and Johnson Farms to replace those that died in 2016. The lack of precipitation and high heat during July has resulted in stress on species such as spruce as indicated by browning on the tips of branches. All shelterbelts are being watered as needed. Weeding and mowing of the shelterbelts has occurred bi-weekly to keep weeds under control. 

As of March 2017-Weeding and mowing didn’t occur as frequently as expected during the summer of 2016 and as a result, heavy weed growth impacted tree mortality, particularly on the golden current at Brookdale Farm with 80% mortality. Mortality in the remaining species ranged between 1% and 18%. At Johnson Farm, only 7% of the Scots pine died compared to the seabuckthorn with 38% mortality. Replacement trees have been ordered and will be planted in early May at both locations.

As of August 2016 - Both types of shelterbelts were planted and mulched in early to mid-May with assistance from the Upper Assiniboine River Conservation District staff. Plastic mulching was used which decreases plant competition on the seedlings. Trees have survived well and dead seedlings will be counted in the fall to determine the success rate. The shelter belts have been weeded once during the summer. Thanks to the rainfall this summer the farm staff haven’t had to water the shelter belts but will continue to monitor tree health and if necessary, will begin to water the plants.

Photo Gallery

Select any image below to view enlargement and/or play slideshow:

Gallery: Kristelle Harper (Research Coordinator) and Andrea Hamilton (Summer Student) on the tree planter at the Brookdale site in May 2016.  class= Gallery: Kim Wolfe (Project Lead) working on the tree planter at the Johnson site (June 2016).  class= Gallery: Twin row shelterbelt at the Brookdale site on July 5, 2016 class= Gallery: Planting shelterbelts on May 11, 2016  class= Gallery: Shelterbelt design at the Johnson Farm indicating the location of species and length of rows (2016) class= Gallery: Shelterbelt design at the Brookdale Farm indicating the location of species and the length of rows (2016) class= Gallery: The twin row shelterbelt at Brookdale after weeding in September 2016 class= Gallery: Twin row shelterbelt at Brookdale before weeding in September 2016.  class=

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