As most all of us across the Midwest, I got out last Saturday morning to start digging out from the overnight snow storm. The picture of my truck was taken at about 10 a.m. Saturday morning and the depth of the snow on the tarp was at 8 inches. One hour later, after a lot of scooping and pushing snow, there was 9 inches. According to the National Weather Service at the Columbia, Missouri Regional Airport, this was the third highest snow storm since 1900, totaling 16.9 inches.
While plowing out my driveway, I got to thinking about what the “Old Timers” use to say. “We’re getting a lot of free fertilizer from all this snow”. Some even thought it was a prudent thing to get out in the field and plow the snow under to capture that “free fertilizer”. They had observed that after a late winter or spring snow, that their grass and even their wheat crop greened up more than after a dry winter. So, the thought was that there was a lot of nitrogen in the snow.
There is a lot of nitrogen in the air (78%), but snow is made of water. While some of the nitrogen in the air will attach to the water molecules, it’s not very much and most of that nitrogen, especially what’s in the top layer of snow, will evaporate and go back into the atmosphere. A small amount in the bottom layer of snow will go into the soil, but it such a small amount that, don’t count on it for part of your overall nitrogen program.
Before the Clean Air Act took the sulfur out of auto and coal emissions that were going into the atmosphere, we did get a lot of our sulfur needs from rain and snow. But we no longer get that free fertilizer, and we must add that 15 to 20 units of sulfur regularly to our fertility programs for grass crops like corn and wheat. The biggest advantage of this blanket of heavy wet snow for most of us is the insulation of the wheat crop that is out there, protecting it from the artic temperatures which are forecast for this weekend and next week.
We hope that you have not had any problems from this past snow storm, and you have had time to enjoy the beauty of what Mother Nature provided for us. Even though it was just a little pain in the you know what!