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Windbreaks

Windbreaks are linear plantings of trees and shrubs designed to provide economic, environmental and community benefits. The primary purpose of most windbreaks is to slow the wind which creates a more beneficial condition for soils, crops, livestock, wildlife and people. Windbreaks, sometimes called shelterbelts, can also function in ways not related to wind reduction. Non-wind related purposes include visual screens, wildlife habitat, vegetative field borders and as another crop source.

Increasingly windbreaks are being designed to provide additional sources of income and products that can be used in the farm operation.

Windbreaks can be and often are designed to serve more than one purpose. However, windbreaks are not a one size fits all practice. The location, orientation to the wind, height, width, density and species selection all play a role in determining the benefits that the windbreak will provide.

There are several types of windbreaks. Field windbreaks protect a variety of wind-sensitive crops, control soil wind erosion, increase crop yields, and increase bee pollination and irrigation and pesticide effectiveness. Field windbreaks can also be designed to spread snow evenly across a field, increasing spring soil moisture. Livestock windbreaks help reduce mortality from cold weather, animal stress, and feed consumption, all of which lead to increased weight gain and milk production. Windbreaks also help reduce visual impacts, noise, and odors from livestock operations. Living snow fences keep roads clear of drifting snow and increase driving safety. Farmstead windbreaks reduce heating costs and improve outdoor working conditions.

Spruce windbreak with additional red-stemmed dogwoods planted along its edge with a pasture.
Adding specialty products like red-stemmed dogwood to a windbreak can provide an additional source of income for landowners. (USDA National Agroforestry Center photo)

Increasingly windbreaks are being designed to provide additional sources of income. Some trees and shrubs can produce fruits, nuts, fuel, fodder or materials for crafts that can be sold or processed in order to diversify farm income. In these cases the crop that is harvested from the trees and shrubs in a manner that does not impair the shelterbelt function. Careful design is required to reduce potential conflicts between management of the crop field and the windbreak.

Some other specialized windbreaks include pollinator habitat and field buffers for organic production. Pollinators can be supported by including a variety of plants that bloom at different times to provide food over a longer period of time. Native pollinators can also be supported by choosing plants that are used for bee nesting and merely by providing undisturbed soil for ground nesting bees. Shelterbelts can also be designed to intercept pesticides and chemical laden dust to protect organic production fields and active pollinators, both wild and domesticated.

Currently, significant work is being carried out by NAC and its partners to support windbreak inventory, establishment, and renovation.

Information Sheets

  • Infosheet

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    Can Windbreaks Benefit Your Soil Health Management System?

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  • Infosheet

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    How Can Agroforestry Help Landowners Adapt To Increased Rain Intensity?

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  • Infosheet

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    How Can Agroforestry Help Pollinators?

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  • Infosheet

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    How Does Agroforestry Help Crop Pollination?

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  • Infosheet

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    How Can Agroforestry Practices And Approaches Support Green Infrastructure?

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  • Infosheet

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    How Can Agroforestry Help Landowners Adapt To Climate Change?

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  • Infosheet

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    Can Windbreaks Do More Than Slow The Wind?

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  • Infosheet

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    Can Windbreaks Help With Organic Farming?

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  • Infosheet

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    What Is A Windbreak?

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  • Infosheet

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    ¿Qué Es Agroforestería?

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  • Infosheet

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    What Are Agroforestry's Income Opportunities

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  • Infosheet

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    What Is Agroforestry?

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Brochures

Inside Agroforestry

  • Inside Agroforestry

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    So Many Trees To Choose From

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Windbreak Innovation

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Why Agroforestry?

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Why Agroforestry? Part 2

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Learn How You Can Use Agroforestry To Help Pollinators

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    25th Anniversary

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Finding Agroforestry In The 2014 Farm Bill

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Locally Sourced

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Helping Wildlife Helps You!

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Many Paths To Success

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Extreme Weather

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Windbreaks: These Aren't Your Grandfather's Shelterbelts

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Now Is The Time For Agroforestry!

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Small, But Mighty

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Breathe In. Okay, Now Breathe Out

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Beyond The Fence Line

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Fuel For The Future

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    A Diverse Portfolio

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Diamonds In The Rough

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Northern Exposure: Agroforestry In Canada

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Tool Talk

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Windbreaks

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    2002 Farm Bill

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Odor: Can Trees Make A Difference?

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Getting Buffers On The Ground: A Group Effort

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Alley Cropping: 20/20 Vision For Farming's Future

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Spring 2000

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    ... Including The Carbon Sink

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Fall/Winter 1999-2000

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Spring 1998

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Winter 1997

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Spring 1997

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Summer 1997

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Fall 1996

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Winter/Spring 1996

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Fall 1995

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Spring 1995

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Summer 1995

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Summer 1994

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Spring 1994

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Fall 1994

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Summer 1993

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Fall 1993

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Winter/Spring 1993

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Winter 1993

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Fall 1992

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Agroforestry Notes

  • Agroforestry Note

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    Using Agroforestry Practices To Reduce Pesticide Risks To Pollinators & Other Agriculturally Beneficial Insects

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  • Agroforestry Note

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    An Overview Of Agroforestry

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  • Agroforestry Note

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    Using Agroforestry To Buffer Noise

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  • Agroforestry Note

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    Windbreaks: A "fresh"� Tool To Mitigate Odors From Livestock Production Facilities

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  • Agroforestry Note

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    Windbreak Density: Rules Of Thumb For Design

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  • Agroforestry Note

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    Windbreaks: An Agroforestry Practice

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  • Agroforestry Note

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    Waterbreaks: Managed Trees For The Floodplain

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  • Agroforestry Note

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    Outdoor Living Barn: A Specialized Windbreak

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Research

  • Research

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    High-resolution Land Cover Of Kansas

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  • Research

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    Diseases Of Trees In The Great Plains

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  • Research

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    A Win-win On Agricultural Lands: Creating Wildlife Habitat Through Agroforestry

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  • Research

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    Analyzing The Uncertainties In Use Of Forest-derived Biomass Equations For Open-grown Trees In Agricultural Land

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  • Research

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    Working Trees: Supporting Agriculture And Healthy Landscapes

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  • Research

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    Simulating The Dynamics Of Linear Forests In Great Plains Agroecosystems Unfer Changing Climates

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  • Research

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    A Role For Agroforestry In Forest Restoration In The Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley

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  • Research

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    Enhancing Ecosystem Services: Designing For Multifunctionality

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  • Research

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    The Use Of Forest-derived Specific Gravity For The Conversion Of Volume To Biomass For Open-grown Trees On Agricultural Land

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  • Research

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    A Spatial Model Approach For Assessing Windbreak Growth And Carbon Stocks

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  • Research

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    Carbon Sequestration In Agricultural Lands Of The United States

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  • Research

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    Creatively Communicating Conservation Complexity

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  • Research

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    Filling The Gap: Improving Estimates Of Working Tree Resources In Agricultural Landscapes

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  • Research

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    Agroforestry: Working Trees For Sequestering Carbon On Agricultural Lands

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  • Research

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    Buffer And Vegetative Filter Strips

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  • Research

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    Managing Agricultural Landscapes For Environmental Quality: Strengthening The Science Base

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  • Research

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    Developing Above-ground Woody Biomass Equations For Open-grown, Multi-stemmed Tree Species: Shelterbelt-grown Russian-olive

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  • Research

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    Perennial Crops For Bio-fuels And Conservation

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  • Research

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    Developing And Extending Sustainable Agriculture: A New Social Contract

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  • Research

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    Visualizing Agroforestry Alternatives Or Pixel This!

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  • Research

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    Tool Time: Melding Watershed And Site Goals On Private Lands

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  • Research

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    Visualizing Food And Farm

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  • Research

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    Picture This

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  • Research

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    Agroforestry-Working Trees For Sequestering Carbon On Ag-Lands

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  • Research

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    Inventorying Trees In Agricultural Landscapes: Towards An Accounting Of Working Trees

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  • Research

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    Computer-based Tools For Decision Support In Agroforestry: Current State And Future Needs

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  • Research

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    CBD Technical Series No. 10 - Interlinkages Between Biological Diversity And Climate Change

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  • Research

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    Agroforestry And GIS: Achieving Land Productivity And Environmental Protection

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  • Research

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    Alteration Of Soil Water Content Consequent To Root-pruning At A Windbreak/crop Interface In Nebraska, USA

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  • Research

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    Agroforestry: Mapping The Way With GIS

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  • Research

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    Ecobelts: Reconnecting Agriculture And Communities - Case Studies

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  • Research

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    Ecobelts: Reconnecting Agriculture And Communities

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  • Research

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    An Ecological Foundation For Temperate Agroforestry

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  • Research

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    Perspective: Agroforestry And Sustainability: Making A Patchwork Quilt

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More Publications

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    Guide To USDA Agroforestry Research Funding Opportunities

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    Inspirations For Creating A Long-Term Agricultural Lease For Agroforestry: A Workbook

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    Marketing Specialty Forest Products

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    Edible Woody Landscapes

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    Productive Conservation: Growing Specialty Forest Products In Agroforestry Plantings.

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    Hybrid Hazelnuts: An Agroforestry Opportunity

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  • More Publications

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    Buffers For Biomass Production In Temperate European Agriculture: A Review And Synthesis On Function, Ecosystem Services And Implementation

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    Profitable Farms And Woodlands

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    Windbreaks For Fruit And Vegetable Crops

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  • More Publications

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    Green Infrastructure: Designing With Nature

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    RC & D Survey Of Agroforestry Practices

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    Field Windbreaks

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  • More Publications

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    Agroforestry In The United States: Research And Technology Transfer Needs For The Next Millenium

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  • More Publications

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    Living Snow Fences

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    Windbreak Renovation

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  • More Publications

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    Integrating Agroforestry Into USDA Programs

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  • More Publications

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    Windbreak Management

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  • More Publications

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    Windbreaks For Snow Management

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  • More Publications

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    Working Trees Coloring Book

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  • More Publications

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    Windbreaks For Livestock Operations

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  • More Publications

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    Windbreaks For Rural Living

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  • More Publications

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    How Windbreaks Work

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  • More Publications

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    Windbreak Establishment

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    Windbreaks And Wildlife

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  • More Publications

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    Windbreaks In Sustainable Agricultural Systems

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  • More Publications

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    Windbreaks For Conservation

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https://www.fs.usda.gov/nac/practices/windbreaks.php