By Saintly Ngwenya.
Moving around many farms, one can easily observe that a number of farmers are cutting down trees especially for curing tobacco, selling firewood to urban centres and clearing new fields. In many farms and communal farming communities, forests and tree plantations are dwindling at a very fast rate. The importance of tree plantations has not been emphasized to many farmers.
Tree plantations have environmental benefits which if farmers have knowledge on they will start up tree plantations on their farms. These benefits have long term economic effects to the farmer and the community. Most farmers seem to neglect these benefits since trees take a long time to produce such kind of anticipated benefits.
Benefits of farm tree plantations.
Trees have for a long time been known on maintaining the ecosystem of the farm. Trees enhance soil and water cycles creating a productive micro-environment which is beneficial to the farmer. By having a tree plantation around the farm, the farmer is assured of reduced salinity and sodicity levels due to lowered water logging tendencies depending on type of trees planted. Moreover, trees add to biodiversity conservation at the farm.
Most importantly, as a direct benefit to the farmer, tree plantations act as wind barriers or wind breaks. With violent storms being experienced due to climate changes in recent seasons, trees are very useful in reducing the wind speed at the farm. This has a direct benefit of protecting soils and water sources from extreme wind. Tree wind breaks also protects farm settlements, farm buildings and electricity power lines, thereby saving the farmer a lot of revenue in repairing damaged infrastructure. These wind breaks are also important in spray drift moderation, in the process aiding in proper aerial and boom chemical spraying.
Trees are also very important on farms as they provide shelter for stock. This reduces exposure to extreme weather conditions like heatwaves and rainstorms. This saves animals from challenges associated with these weather conditions. Moreover, tree plantations are useful in providing shelter to pollinators (bees and birds) and other beneficiary insects.
Plantations increase the value of farms, by reducing soil erosion and providing beautiful scenery at the farm. As an end benefit, tree plantations provide firewood for fueling different farm activities, however care has to be taken to avoid deforestation and thereby undermining the benefits of trees.
The benefits of tree plantations are numerous and farmers can take advantage of these benefits and set up plantations on their lands.
For more information on how to start a tree plantation and type of trees to have, Join us our discuss forum to chat with other farmers and experts.