A shelterbelt strip surrounding our pastures started off as 5 meters wide and is now 15 meters wide. We plant indigenous and endemic trees and shrubs and is one area where the cattle will never graze. The methodology and results of our grazing is explained here.
Here’s the 7 main reasons why we have given up precious pasture for these shelter belts:
1. The trees and shrubs form a windbreak. Our desiccating summer wind needs to be broken.
2. The shelterbelt area becomes a seed bank as the grasses and legumes that grow there are not mown by the cattle and chickens every 6 weeks and can accordingly complete their life cycle.
3. It becomes a home for the birds and the bees (as per above photo). These animals do an important role in cleaning up the pasture of bugs as well as fertilising and pollinating.
4. Most importantly, for me at least, the shelterbelts bring microbial balance onto the farm. I am referring to soil microbes here. Don’t forget that in a handful of healthy soil there are more microbes than there are humans on earth. A tree dominant area is fungally dominant whereas a grassland area is bacterially dominant.
5. The shelterbelts add tremendously to the beauty of our already beautiful farm. As you will see from the photos below there are always plants in flower as we have planted a great variety of indigenous and endemic trees and shrubs.
6. We have a few, long beefwood (casuarina) windbreaks and we need to replace these with indigenous trees and shrubs.
7. The trees and shrubs in the shelterbelts capture Carbon. Learn how our beef operation generates Carbon credits by clicking here. Although our shelterbelts are not calculated in our Carbon project, through the growth process of these trees, Carbon is being stored in the soil.
We really like the succulents: they dont need much water or attention and when they flower the colours are superb.
In case the purple was not bright enough here is the succulent in all it’s glory.
Spier have the most amazing indigenous nursery where over 2 million plants have been propagated over the last 5 years. Most of these plants have been reintroduced into the veld on Spier and another Stellenbosch farm. The green fingered wizard who manages this operation is Wilton Sikhosana. Seen below on the right showing Jabulani and Mike (with their backs turned) which plants can go out into the shelter belts.
The team that manages the planting (this winter alone they planted out 4,000 plants) and then maintains them is headed by Jabulani. Looking serious next to him are Dumisani, Machingura, Norman and Terence.
Jabulani takes himself so seriously he cannot even manage a smile.
We cannot allow the purple plant to be the only one to be admired so we planted this pink succulent too.
Below is one of the newly planted shelterbelts. It is the now standard 15 meter wide variety and Jabulani’s team planted it this past July. Crimson clover is fixing nitrogen. The trees are so small they have to be staked.
One of the advantages of having such diversity is that there is always a plant in flower. In early winter the aloe arborescens comes out to dazzle.
Coulter Bush (hymenolepis parviflora) in the foreground. Eggmobiles behind and Helderberg on the horizon. November 2013.
Finally we are a Wine Farm and we apply the shelterbelt principles there too. Here is the shelterbelt that runs through the Merlot vineyard.