Managing Snowcovers in Grain Fields Harvested for Straw Fiber

TitleManaging Snowcovers in Grain Fields Harvested for Straw Fiber
Publication TypeConference Proceedings
Year of Conference2009
AuthorsSteppuhn, H., Stumborg M., Lafond G., and McConkey B.
Conference Name77th Annual Western Snow Conference
Series TitleProceedings of the 77th Annual Western Snow Conference
Date PublishedApril 2009
PublisherWestern Snow Conference
Conference LocationCanmore, AB
KeywordsSnow management, stubble management, snow control, stripper header, dryland crop harvest, soil-water management

Agriculture across the Northern Great Plains and Canadian Prairies depends on snowcover resources for dryland crop production in semi-arid environments. On average, between 15 to 35% of the mean annual precipitation within this region falls as snow. Selecting the harvest method and controlling the stubble height of grain crops are among the techniques available to farmers and ranchers for managing the snow that falls upon or blows across their fields. Considerable crop stubble is now harvested and converted to useful bio-products, and more straw for fiber will be utilized in the future. This creates a challenge to devise new equipment and improve techniques in order to harvest both crop grain and straw but also maintain enough standing stubble to retain snow for subsequent crop production. One technique uses a stripper rather than the standard sickle header on the combine to harvest the grain-filled seed-heads when ripe. The stripper leaves ample straw which can be harvested later in various ways to also trap snow and manage snowcovers. Preliminary field results with the stripper in harvesting wheat, flax, lentils, barley, and other crops encourage the continuation of field trials to evaluate snow retention with the implement.