U of M soil researcher: Mild winter unlikely to have major impact on spring planting

(KSTP) – Our warm weather and lack of snow this winter is something Minnesota farmers will have to adjust to this spring.

This winter is on pace for the warmest on record, and it’s one of the least snowy, too. But Jeff Strock, a professor and soil scientist at the University of Minnesota Southwest Research Center, said he isn’t worried about this growing season.

We haven’t had much snow this winter, but there has been more rain than normal.

“The water equivalent in the snow we’ve had, plus the rainfall that we’ve had over the same period of time, has resulted in 9.8 inches of water equivalent,” Strock said.

December had nearly double the normal for liquid precipitation, enough to compensate for a dry January. Precipitation in February is already above average as well.

Frost has a role to play, too.

“Because frost has got a huge impact on whether that snow, as it melts, either infiltrates into the soil or evaporates and sublimates up into the air,” Strock said.

This year’s frost depth is several inches shallower than the last two winters, and it didn’t last nearly as long.

“We have frost anywhere between 10 inches down in the soil and 19 inches down in the soil,” Strock said. “The surface has been pretty much thawed out for the last month.”

That means the vast majority of recent snow and rain events has gone right to where growers need it: the ground.

“We’ve got a decent amount of soil moisture out there,” Strock said. “We’ve got probably what will be some pretty decent conditions to start out for planting for farmers.”

To that note, Strock says he would caution planters and growers about one thing.

“They really need to be paying attention to … weather forecasts, because we’ve got the potential for frost at times all the way through sometimes late April into early May,” he said.