Does snow enrich the soil?

June 4, 2017 | Author: | Posted in Weather

That snow fertilizes the soil is an old belief that has some scientific foundation. Many farmers expect good crops after a winter of heavy snowfall. An old English rhyme runs:

Year of snow
Fruit will grow.

In 1729 William Byrd of Westover wrote as follows of southern Virginia: ”The Soil wou’d also want the advantages of Frost, and Snow, which by their Nitrous Particles contribute not a little to its Fertility.”

Both snow and rain, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, bring down fertile elements from the air, especially nitrogen and sulphur, and this fact undoubtedly accounts for the general opinion among farmers that a winter of heavy snowfall is usually followed by a season of good crops. It is doubtful, however, whether snow brings down more fertilizer elements than a corresponding quantity of rain.

But snow has several advantages over rain in this respect. If it falls on unfrozen ground and melts gradually it is more likely to be absorbed by the soil than rain is. Therefore a heavy fall of snow is likely to afford an ample and uniform supply of moisture without undue erosion of the soil and at the same time protects certain crops against frost.

Some farmers say that a fall of snow plowed under has a particularly desirable effect upon the fertility of the soil.

It is probable that snow sometimes carries soil from one locality and deposits it in another–a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul. A “brown snow” in parts of New England in 1936 deposited many tons of dust to the acre. Government weather experts gave it as their opinion that the dust came from Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma, some sixteen hundred miles away.

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