ALLEGAN COUNTY, Mich. – When you see snow plows out in full force, it’s not just the kids who are happy about the snow days; certain farmers welcome the white stuff, too.
“We’re really happy with the snow,” said Mike Staton, soybean educator at Michigan State University’s extension office in Allegan County. He said this snow storm could help repair some of the damage done last summer.
“The snow is going to help us recharge our soil moisture. As you know, we just came off a drought here in Michigan, and lack of moisture really affected our (crop) yields.”
Staton said that although it takes about 10 inches of snow to equal the moisture gained in just once inch rain water, farmers are glad to have it. Plus, the blanket of snow acts as insulation for some crops. “Winter wheat that was planted in the fall, and alfalfa–which is a perennial crop, it lasts for 5 years, unless it gets damaged by freezing temperatures,” Staton said.
In fact, just four inches of snow can keep the soil temperature from dropping too low. But at this point, it’s not the cold temperatures alfalfa and wheat farmers are worried about – it’s just the opposite. “If you remember a week ago, we had some really warm temperatures.” Staton added that crops only need three consecutive days of warmth to be tricked into thinking it is spring and to start growing.
“If they break dormancy then the damage goes up with the higher temperatures.”
And when the ground freezes again, that’s when the crop is damaged. Staton said he thinks the two crops will be OK after the warm temperatures in earlier January, but “the jury is still out.”