Pros and Cons to Keeping Fence Rows Clean

How important is it to clear brush from the edges of your fields? fence rows

I was talking to a farmer that I’ve worked closely with for many years and this week was the week they were out cleaning fence rows. And I couldn’t agree more that this was a perfect week, with the mild temperatures and even some firm ground. I know that we don’t have fence rows that surround every field like we once did, but every field has an edge. Many of the field are surrounded by woods, tree lines, roads, railroad tracks, cemeteries and the list goes on.

Managing Sunlight

Removing trees and cleaning brush can be well worth the time and investment. Many farmers today take it upon themselves to do this task at no expense to the landlord. This is how important they think this is. Tree lines can lower crop yields and decrease the income from these acres. This loss of crop productivity can come in a variety of ways. One way is large trees can reduce the amount of sunlight the plants get in the affected area. Sunlight is a very important piece of the photosynthetic process. If you reduce sunlight the plant can’t produce the sugars needed for many plant functions.

Valuable Nutrients and Water

Along with sunlight, the roots of many trees reach beyond the edges of the field. Some research conducted by Virginia Tech states that young trees can reach out in feet based on the trunk diameter. If the trunk is six inches, then it’s roots could reach six feet beyond the base of the trunk. In older trees, this is much harder to determine. Just know that if you have trees in the fence row, their reach could be causing some crop damage. These trees can rob valuable water and nutrients from the cash crop.

Wildlife Habitat

Fence rows can also attract wildlife to these areas. This can cause major crop damage and decrease a farmer’s profitability. Wildlife will feed on seed and plants next to fence rows and tree lines. I have seen wild turkeys dig up every corn seed in the first sixteen rows along the edge of the field. If you have a field ½-mile long and sixteen rows are missing or damaged, the farmer just lost almost 2.5 acres of crop. If they have over $650 in expense including farm rent, that is $1625 already lost before the crop is ever grown. This kind of damage can be significant.

Wildlife like Canada geese, sandhill cranes, common crow, wild turkeys, white-tail deer, wild hogs, and many other animals can cause major damage. I was talking with another farmer who rents some land that is very much surrounded by forest. In one field alone, I think I counted 12 deer stands. This landlord loves hunting and as the owner has the right to grow as many deer as he wants to. But from the farmer’s perspective, the first 40-60 feet of the field yields little to nothing. This farmer is forced to put as little into these areas as possible to keep from losing too much money. I think another solution could be helpful but the landowner wants the rent from these unproductive acres.

Create a win-win situation for you and the tenant!

I am a wildlife enthusiast. I love to see these animal as I am out and about. Just keep in mind, there is a cost for seeing wildlife and you may have to work with your tenant on some strategies to allow both of you to benefit. There can be a balance between production and wildlife habitat and finding that is the duty of you, the landowner, and the farmer renting your land.

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