How snowfall can impact farm soil during winter months and into growing season

Updated: Mar. 9, 2022 at 5:30 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Iowa (KCRG) - With spring like conditions last week, the snowfall we saw Monday and more incoming this week has many Iowans longing for warmer weather.

”Whether it be in the growing season or over the winter every drop of moister is so important,” said Mitchell Hora, 7th Generation Farmer.

Eastern Iowa saw some frigid days this winter… but one thing the state hasn’t seen as much of is consistent snowfall. And that lack of snow can impact farmland.

”Reason for our concern with not having a ton of snow here this year is what is it doing to the ground moister? And if we’re going to be going and planting our cash crop here in April, in just another couple short weeks, we want to make sure we have adequate soil moisture. And that snow, it really helps to replenish especially some of that deeper soil moisture down through the profile. Having that snow cover is definitely a big part of our ability to make sure that we’ve got moisture there in the spring,” said Hora.

While recent snowfall will help, Rebecca Vittetoe, a Field Agronomist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach said drought conditions are still at the top of farmer’s minds.

”What those conditions are going to do potentially. Especially since last year in the spring we were dealing with those dry conditions. That’s still really in the front of their memory,” said Vittetoe.

Hora said another worry with the inconsistency of snow we’ve seen this year is with cover crops. Cover crops are typically species of grass planted after cash crops like beans and corn are harvested.

Hora said cover crops help build soil health, protect against erosion and help feed soil micro biomes over the winter months.

”Our big concern are we going to provide the insulation that we need for our cover crop… for some of our diverse covers. When we have these bare soils that get really, really icy cold that can hurt some of what we’ve got going on with some of our cover crop species and maybe some of our critters below soil,” said Hora.

Like many farms in Iowa, Hora doesn’t use irrigation systems.

”The biggest driver for our success is always weather. And weather is going to be different no matter what. We can’t control it. And Mother Nature is always our major make or break,” said Hora.

Hora said as they rely on weather for things like snow and rain, one thing they can control is focusing on soil health and making every drop of moisture count.

Copyright 2022 KCRG. All rights reserved.