Spring snowfall — bad for travel, good for planting

MARSHALL – Tuesday’s snowfall shut down area schools and made travel difficult, and there’s more on the way. But farmers are breathing a sigh of relief.

“In the long run it’s really going to help us out, we needed the moisture,” said Terry Schmidt, regional agronomy manager for the agricultural service company CHS. “This stretches us further into the season before we need some timely rains.”

Depleted by the last few years of near-drought conditions, the soil profile is dry down to a six to seven foot depth, according to Schmidt. A test dig CHS did in Granite Falls found the frost line at six inches, meaning there’ll be moisture on top available for seed germination.

However, moisture to refill the soil profile is still badly needed.

Schmidt compared the snow on the ground now “a Band-Aid over an open wound.”

Area farmers are hoping to plant around the normal time for corn, between April 20 to 25, though more wet cold weather could delay planting to May 1, according to Jim Kluis, owner of Crop Insurance Specialists in Slayton.

“Last year a lot of people were ready to plant early in the season, before the April 11 date farmers are eligible for replant payments,” Kluis said. “We won’t be having that problem this year.”

But more snow is coming today and Friday, according to Todd Krause, warning coordinating meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Chanhassen.

“Basically there’s a pretty intense storm out of the southwest across the plains bringing round two of snowfall,” Krause said. “By Thursday evening, there should be 10 to 12 inches of snow, and there’s definitely an inch to an inch-and-a-half of water in that.”

But, Krause said, though the near term could be rainy and snowy, there is no way to know if the growing season will be wet enough to recharge the soil with moisture.

“In the next few weeks we have a better chance of decent precipitation,” Krause said, “but there’s just no way to tell what the rest of the summer will be like.”

With crops and rain, timing is everything. Last year conditions varied widely across the area with patches of precipitation scattered seemingly randomly. Still, the crop yield overall was far better than feared.

Schmidt sees more hope this year than some others.

“Last year we were one rain from a disaster and one rain from a bumper crop,” Schmidt said. “One nice thing about this heavy wet snow is, it usually doesn’t move, it sinks in.”