Winter kill for farmers may not be as bad as last year

Even after all the melting that occurred Monday and Tuesday, there’s still quite a bit of snow left on the ground.

And it was a combination snow and ice that hurt some crops in Northeast Wisconsin a year ago, suffering from what’s known as a “winter kill.”

Alfalfa and winter wheat were the hardest hit.

It might seem like we’re set up for more of the same, but the circumstances surrounding last year and this year are different.

Ice sitting on top of the fields last year, left from alternating periods of snow and rain that winter, suffocated the plans beneath.

This year you might think the same would happen with all the snow we have.

But as long as it’s just snow, the fields can breathe underneath.

And it helps protect the fields from harsh temperatures.

According to Dean Volenberg, Agriculture Educator with the Door County Extension, “We got an early blanket of snow that kept on all season so we didn’t see that exposure to those cold temperatures. You really only need about three inches of snowfall to cover that crown on the plant to really get that insulating factor, and of course we’ve had more than three inches this year.”

The consistent snow cover helps out with ground frost depth as well.

Rather than the frost reaching four feet or deeper like it does under bare ground, the snow keeps that depth to one to two feet.
That allows for a quicker thaw in the spring.

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