Vegetative Buffers Around Farm Buildings

Fast growing trees and shrubs provide a visual barrier around farm buildings or practices that potentially cause neighborhood concerns.   The old adage, “out of sight, out of mind” is true.  If non-farm neighbors can’t see something, they may be less likely to think about it or make complaints about it.  “Out of sight, out of mind” is especially true if the tree buffer also controls odors and dust, causing an “out of sight, out of smell” affect.

Odors typically travel along the ground.  When odors encounter a row of trees, the odor plume is disrupted and mixes with the prevailing wind, reducing odors.  Ammonia gas is absorbed by plants, also reducing odors.


Dust from poultry buildings can retain odors, too.  Plants cause some of the dust to fall out of the air plume, thereby reducing odors too.

Tree buffers provide visual and noise barriers, which helps with good neighbor relations.  Windbreaks also help filter and capture nutrients from runoff and ground water through root absorption of up to an estimated 80% of the nitrogen and phosphorus in certain environments, according to the fact sheet, “Windbreak Plant Species for Odor Management around Poultry Production Facilities.”  Please read this link for additional technical information about tree buffers.

The following suggestions are taken directly from the “Windbreak Plant Species for Odor Management around Poultry Production Facilities”.

To maximize particulate trapping, select plants based on the following factors:

  • high leaf surface roughness (plants with leaf hairs, leaf veins, and small leaf size)
  • complex leaf shapes
  • large leaf circumference to area ratios and medium to rapid growth rates

It is usually best to select several different species of trees and shrubs for use in windbreaks. This is to prevent the loss or destruction of the entire windbreak if attacking insect pests or tree diseases occur on certain species.  Having diversity also offers a better chance for tree survival during alternating seasons of drought and or wet soil conditions.  Finally, to provide an effective windbreak, a combination of plant growth rates should be used. Faster growing plants, which provide quick visual screening, generally are short lived.

Technical assistance for the these buffers is available by calling your local USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office.

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