Agronomy Blog

Benefits of Snow

by Matt Teply | Jan 26, 2018
Teply_snow citedRecent weather events have moved across much of the United States and brought snowfall to many areas.   It is important to remember that although snow can make our lives a little more difficult for a little while.  That there are a few benefits that come along with snow.


Of course, one of the most apparent benefits is the moisture that comes along with snow.  Moisture content can be difficult to measure though, depending on factors that are greatly affect by temperatures at various levels of the atmosphere.  As a general rule most wet snows will have a moisture ratio of 5:1. Or, within 5 inches of wet snow there is 1 inch of liquid equivalent moisture.  Drier snow which is often associated with well below freezing temperatures throughout the atmosphere will produce smaller snowflakes with greater amounts of air between flakes.  Drier snow to liquid equivalent ratios are near 10:1. For every 10 inches of snow there is 1 inch of liquid equivalent moisture.  In some cases that ratio can be as high as 30:1 in extremely cold conditions.

Another benefit of snow is that as the ice crystals and flakes form they trap various forms of nutrients within them.  One of the nutrients trapped is nitrogen.  Organic, nitrate, and ammonium forms of nitrogen are all often trapped in the ice crystals.  Now, the amount trapped is not in real significant amounts and probably not going to greatly affect a fertilizer program.  But, it in some areas between snowfall and rain a benefit of 22 lbs. of nitrogen per year can be received.  Other nutrients often found within snowflakes is sulfur and a few other trace minerals.

Another key aspect of snow is that it acts as an insulator to many of the winter annual crops.  A good cover of 3 to 4 inches of snow can insulate the ground and protect winter grown crops from freezing temperatures.  Reducing winter kill in many instances.  A good cover of snow, 2 to 4 inches deep, can increase surface soil temperatures as much as 35 degrees Fahrenheit.

So, the next time you're cleaning the drive or moving snow be sure to remember that there are benefits that come with the white stuff.  Even though it may not seem like it. 

 Sources:

  1. http://www.theweatherprediction.com/habyhints/346/
  2. https://friendsofthegarden.org/fog-blog/2014/01/23/snow-contains-nutrients-that-penetrate-into-soil-good-for-plants/
  3. http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/snow_a_welcome_sight_for_farmers