Benefits of Snow Cover
Snow can be a nuisance for our daily activities, it can however benefit winter wheat crop.
Snow has two distinct benefits for winter wheat:
It provides insulation for young plants, protecting them from extreme fluctuations in air temperature. (Maybe it came a bit too late this time?)
It provides soil moisture when it melts.
Although genetics plays a significant role in winter wheat’s ability to tolerate cool temperatures, not having sufficient snow cover can impose a risk to any variety planted.
At minus 20 degree C (or lower) the chances of winter kill increase rapidly! But with 50 mm or more of snow the temperature around the growing point is often only a few degrees below freezing.
Snow cover also helps winter wheat during above-freezing temperatures. This is when permanent damage to wheat plants occurs due to “ice injuries.”
In fact above-freezing damage is much more likely within the UK than minus 20 degree C. Low temperatures immediately following thaw periods can cause ice accumulation on the soil surface and in some cases even lift the crown or the growing point of the plant above soil surface making it more susceptible to winter kill.
Melted snow is a source of water for the wheat crop, it is able to dissolve and carry soil applied fertiliser into the rooting zone of the plant where it can be efficiently used.
Although snow makes farm chores difficult, it plays a role in ensuring a commercially viable winter wheat crop.