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Estancia Landowner Uses Farming Methods To Protect Homestead from Winds

LAS CRUCES -- In many regions of New Mexico, wind is a constant force, depositing dust, debris and snow in unprotected areas. One Estancia landowner is trying to redirect wind around his property with a method farmers use -- a windbreak.


Following the Dust Bowl, many farmers planted trees around their land for protection from damaging winds. With help from New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service in Torrance County, Tracy Archey is using the same concept today to direct wind around his 40-acre home site southwest of Estancia.

"We did some research and got a lot of good information from the Extension office on how it really needs to be a three-tiered project," Archey said. "You're not really blocking the wind, you're just redirecting it."

The ideal windbreak, Archey said, should have a row of lower shrubs farthest out, a row of mid-size trees that will grow 20 to 30 feet tall closer in, and a row of taller evergreen trees closest to the house to bank the wind up and over.

Archey is treating the windbreak as a research project. Last year, he planted 120 Russian olive trees on the south and west sides of his property.

"I chose the Russian olives because of their low to moderate water requirements," he said. "I've irrigated them to give them a head start, but once they're established, they'll require very little, if any, irrigation."

For some trees, he incorporated a water-absorbing gel in the planting hole. For others, he placed black landscape fabric on the soil to prevent weed growth and water evaporation. All the trees are irrigated by a drip system.

Archey will monitor the trees' progress for several years to see if the water-absorbing gel and black landscape fabric help speed growth in the windbreak.

In the meantime, he's working to establish the other two tiers of his windbreak system which also will provide shelter for wildlife around his home.