The snow has come. It is likely here for the winter. Having the snow around means there is going to be water around when it gets warm. That could be in mid-November or it could be late April. Whenever the melt occurs, now is probably the time to get ready for it. Before the snow came, the soil was full of water. This is great for next year’s crops because of the reserve moisture. It is especially good for hay fields. This soil moisture means that we will likely have an average to above average hay crop coming for next year. If a producer is looking for some extra hay yield in the upcoming year, this is a year where some fertilizer may be beneficial to get the crop started sooner and get increased growth. Keep an eye on hay prices and look at whether a fertilizer program will allow a producer to create more economic feed next year. With the soils being wet underneath the snow and not likely going to freeze except in area with traffic, it would be a good time to look at where all the water will be heading in the spring. When we have snow this time of year with saturated soils underneath the snow, the only way that the water can go is sideways into the potholes and the river systems or go up in the air through evaporation. The evaporation will come quickly if Mother Nature brings us some heat. This isn’t likely this time of year because the sun is low on the horizon and the days are short. This means that anything that happens this time of year is likely going to be run-off. The key to getting on the cropland early next year is to make sure the surface drainage is going to happen. The initial work to set this up should have been happening over the last few years with improved field drainage. Making sure that the low areas will drain will help ensure that the crop can be planted early. Wet feet for roots makes for sick crops. This is a good time of year to make sure that there are no obstructions in any waterways on your farm. Any filled in ditches or areas where the trees or grass have grown up and plugged off waterways need to dealt with. Making sure that the surface water gets away from areas where it ponds will help to dry things out sooner. Make sure you do this in a legal way (it is illegal to alter any watercourse) and do not flood out your neighbors with any work that might be done to get the water off your land. Ponding water needs to be removed to avoid saturated areas in your fields. We are heading into a wet year. Take some time and look around to make sure you are ready for it. The sooner the water leaves your fields, the sooner you will be able to get on the land.
By Dave Cubbon, P Ag