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Conservation tillage keeping snow white

Dirty snow isn’t always caused by salt and sand. Take a look as you drive through a rural area–you’ll find plenty of discoloured snow banks. This brown coloured snow could be caused by drifting soil (soil erosion), a result of fall tillage practices. When farmers have completed their harvest, they sometimes will work the ground (tilling), for a few reasons:

  • to bury residue;
  • to reduce soil compaction;
  • to incorporate manure or other forms of fertilizer;
  • to help with spring seed bed preparation;
  • and to control weeds.

Tillage can be an important part of grain farming–all of these are valid reasons to practice it. However, in recent years the trend has been conservation tillage. Conservation tillage leaves upwards of 30% of crop residues on top of the soil before and after planting of the next year’s crop, leaving more of the soil intact. This practice can alleviate soil erosion and saves the farmer a trip or two across the field, saving valuable time and fuel costs. Most fields in the area use some form of conservation tillage.

As conservation tillage becomes more popular, you’ll start to see fewer and fewer snow banks tinged with soil.