15 Jan Have Winter Wheat? Let It Snow!
The arrival of winter snow generally brings a halt to field work until spring. However, if you are growing winter wheat, that does not mean that nothing is happening in the field. The presence of snow is essential for the survival of a winter wheat crop when growing in cold weather regions. An adequate layer of snow delivers two key benefits to winter wheat: it provides moisture, and it provides cold weather protection.
Every 10″ of snow is thought to equal roughly 1″ of rainfall. The more snow there is on the field in winter, the more moisture there will be in spring to stimulate growth. Cooler temperatures in spring also mean that surface moisture will not evaporate as quickly, allowing more time for it to soak into the soil.
Cold Weather Protection
Winter wheat begins to die rapidly when temperatures drop down to -5°F/-21°C. In many locations, temperatures will drop much lower than that. Yet because snow is such a strong insulator, a layer 2-4” deep can keep soil temperatures 30-35°F/16-19°C higher than the air temperature, while 5” can keep it 40-55°F/22-30°C higher.
A minimum of 3” of snow is considered enough to prevent winterkill of winter wheat, while thicker layers are able to reduce further winter injury.
Retaining standing crop residue is the most effective way to build snow cover on a field.