Rocky View County is encouraging area farmers to order shelterbelt trees soon to prepare for planting next spring.
The County is partnered with the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA) and Alberta Nurseries to provide application forms as well as answer questions regarding the tree programs.
“This goes back many, many years when planting shelterbelt trees was so important to the agriculture environment,” said Murray Green, Rocky View’s beneficial management practice specialist.
The County distributes the trees, which come from a Bowden nursery or the PFRA facility in Saskatchewan, during the first week of May.
Farmers and acreage owners with more than four acres are eligible to participate in the shelterbelt program.
According to Green, the trees are beneficial in a wide variety of areas, such as near building sites, crops and around riparian areas, such as lakes and streams. Many landowners also plant trees near oil and gas equipment, to screen the area and create a habitat for a wide variety of useful insects, such as honeybees.
“(Shelterbelts) help to protect our streams, lakes and shore beds and protect our water,” said Green.
The trees also help mitigate the effects of farming chemicals, such as fertilizer and pesticide, decreasing ranchers’ environmental footprint, he added.
Available tree species include conifers, such as white and Colorado blue spruce, Siberian larch and Scotch pine, and deciduous trees like ash, oak, poplar and willows. In recent years, a variety of shrubs, such as buffalo berry, choke cherry and dogwood, have also become available.
“I am really excited about the shrubs and using them as the barrier between our water and ranching and farming lands,” said Green.
Last year, the County distributed 80,000 trees, the majority of trees arrived as bare root seedlings. In the past, staff has dispersed as many as 250,000 trees.
The County also has equipment available for renting to help plant the trees.
According to Green, the trees cost farmers very little and there are grant programs in place to help fund them. He suggested the money can be used to help with any labour costs, if needed.
The deadline for the program is March 15. Applications are available at the County office or online at www.agr.gc.ca/shelterbelt or www.marketland.net
For more information, contact Kim Butler at 403-520-8166.