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What's in your windbreak or woodland?

Claire LaCanne, Matt Russell and Gary Wyatt, Extension Educators

When was the last time you walked in your windbreak or woodland? There may be invasive species plants or insects growing in these areas. You may also have high value trees that could be harvested for valuable timber products. These invasive species and profitable trees could be found in your windbreak, woodland areas and riparian woodlands near rivers and streams.


Can you identify buckthorn trees on your property? Buckthorn trees are from Europe and not native to North America. Buckthorn was brought over by settlers in the 1850’s as windbreak trees. Little did they know that birds eat the seeds of the female trees and spread these prolific seeds changing the native windbreak/woodland understory. Buckthorn is also the overwintering host for soybean aphid. Buckthorn is on the MN noxious weed list and on the DNR invasive species list. To learn more about buckthorn control/management and the relationship with soybean aphids, review this website.

Spruce diseases

Do you have Colorado Blue Spruce or Black Hills Spruce in your windbreaks? Have you noticed any browning of needles on the lower branches as the trees reach 15 to 20 years old? If you have, you may have needle cast disease. There are 2 needle cast diseases, Rhizophaera and Stigmina. To help increase the longevity of your trees, you may want to learn more about these needle cast diseases and their management. Check out, for more information.

Marketable trees

You may have timber trees of marketable value in your windbreak or woodland. Black walnut, oaks and black cherry have been valuable trees in the past. Don’t overlook possible profits from your windbreak or woodlands. You may be interested in a Woodland Stewardship Plan or possibly contacting a Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Forester to conduct a timber cruse to evaluate valuable trees.

Emerald ash borer

Emerald ash borer is an invasive insect that is killing ash trees in MN. Many windbreaks and communities have green ash trees. One indicator of emerald ash borer in ash trees is a woodpecker pecking on a living ash tree. Visit this website at to learn more about emerald ash borer and alternative shade trees.


If you have livestock and are currently or are considering grazing your windbreak or woodland, you need to manage three resources: livestock, forage, and trees. This practice is called silvopasture. Be careful to not over-graze pastures and woodlands. To learn more about silvopasture:

Tree selection

If you are renovating or planting a new windbreak, this reference should help in selecting trees to plant: Other tree selection resources include:, climatic adaptive trees:, MnDOT Plant Selector, and tree planting and care (MN DNR)

Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) offices in each county may offer programs for windbreak and conservation plantings plus may sell conservation trees and shrubs, (, click on SWCD Directory). Ask your County SWCD staff for more information.

Knowing what trees are in your windbreak and how to manage them can help make your windbreak more effective, harbor fewer invasive species, and result in additional revenue streams.

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