Taking the Good Out of Winter Conditions
By Mike Sankey | February 2, 2022
We are now in the heart of the winter months here in the upper Midwest. We’ve made it through the holidays and now everyone is just waiting for spring to arrive. Spring will arrive soon enough, but we tend to forget that these cold temps and blustery conditions have some good for our crops.
First and foremost, let’s talk about snow cover. No one likes waking up extra early to clear the driveway or brush snow off the car before heading to work, but snow is a great insulator for perennial crops like alfalfa. As little as 4 inches of snow on an alfalfa stand can help prevent winterkill. Winterkill can happen if temperatures at the 2-4 soil depth get below the mid-teens. This is another great reason to have some regrowth or stubble at the end of the season to “catch” snow and hold it in place vs. blowing to the nearest fence line.
“It wouldn’t be so cold if it wasn’t so gosh darn windy” is one phrase we hear(or say) quite frequently in the winter months. Now I can’t say that the wind has any benefits, but we do see some benefits from the cold or freezing temps. Difficulties with powdery mildew or rust are two common infections that growers in northern states benefit from when cooler temperatures move in. Additionally, when our neighboring southern states experience colder temps, we tend to see later onset of these infections because they need to work their way north. The same situation goes for some insect pests as well. A common pest like fall armyworm does not overwinter well in northern climates and when neighboring southern states experience cooler than normal temperatures; we can see later onset of these insect pests or even fewer populations to deal with.
In conclusion, there are good things that come from these less-than-ideal winter conditions, even if we can’t wait for them to be over… As always, please feel free to reach out to me, or any other Legacy Seeds staff if you can any questions or concerns going into spring.