Submitted to: Encyclopedia of Water Science
Publication Type: Monograph
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/31/2003
Publication Date: 7/31/2003
Citation: MCCOOL, D.K., SHARRATT, B.S., MORSE, J.R. 2003. SNOW CAPTURE BY CROP RESIDUES. IN: STEWART, B.A., HOWELL, T.A. ENCYCLOPEDIA OF WATER SCIENCE. New York, NY. Marcel Dekker, Inc. P. 101-104. Interpretive Summary: In some regions of the world, such as the North American Great Plains, blowing snow can result in considerable loss of moisture from the landscape by physical movement and evaporation. This moisture is often needed to supplement seasonal rainfall and bolster spring crop production. Also, in cold regions, lethal soil temperatures can occur in the absence of snow cover during winter. A literature search of means to retain and capture snow revealed a number of techniques of varying cost and ease of use. Snow capture by standing stubble of uniform height or in strips has potential to increase soil moisture to enhance spring cropping in cold semi-arid regions of the United States and Canada. Techniques such as permanent vegetation barriers or snow ridges are useful but require maintenance or construction each winter and are less widely used. Retaining or capturing snow by low-cost residue management techniques in cold semi-arid regions has potential to increase the supply of soil moisture for subsequent crops. Snow cover also moderates soil temperature, protecting dormant plants from freezing and desiccating, and reducing the depth and duration of soil freezing.
Technical Abstract: The primary purpose of retaining or capturing snow by residue in semi-arid regions is to increase the supply of soil moisture for subsequent crops. Snow retention and capture are of major benefit in regions, such as the North American Great Plains, where blowing snow can result in considerable loss of moisture from the landscape. This moisture is often needed to supplement seasonal rainfall and to bolster spring crop production. Managing snow on the landscape is also beneficial for moderating soil temperatures and protecting dormant plants from freezing and desiccating. This is particularly important in cold regions where lethal soil temperatures can occur in the absence of snow cover during winter. Snow cover aids in reducing the depth of soil freezing which, in combination with duration of soil freezing, can affect hydrological processes such as infiltration and runoff.