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Snow Cover Beneficial for Soil after Dry Spell

The thick blanket of snow covering the region is helping stop a long drought that hit the area.
(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) The winter weather isn't all bad.

The extra moisture is beneficial for agriculture in the region.

"We never have really recharged from the drought of 2012," said Bob Kelly, an Ag-Specialist with the University of Missouri Extension.

The moisture from snow soaks in and keeps it moist enough for dry summer months.

"Right now we're still dry down in the bottom of that zone simply because we have never got enough rain to recharge it," Kelly said.

With nearly a foot of snow in spots, the area may not be seeing the ground for awhile. Kelly said all this snow acts as a blanket and will keep the ground from getting too cold. The surface temperature is just at 31 degrees.

"If we wouldn't have had the snow on the ground when we had all this below zero temperatures, that soil temperature would probably be in the neighborhood of around 25 degrees," Kelly said.

The snow also wets the surface. A dry January led to more grass fires in the area. Andrew Johnson is a fire chief in Rushville. His Southwest Buchanan County fire department responded to multiple grass fires throughout the month.

"Given the dry grass amounts, dry brush, high winds, dry air attributing to low moisture content has more than likely caused more than usual amount of grass fires recently," Johnson said.

Snow cover pretty much eliminates the risk, but Kelly said going forward the big test will be recovering from a dry January.

"Unless we get really warm temperatures, it's going to melt over a longer period of time and because of that, more of it will soak into the soil than say a good rain," Kelly said.

The recent snowfall was dryer, which means there is less moisture that can reach the soil. The water content is a small fraction of what we would get from rain.


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