Snow management for crop production on the Canadian Prairies

TitleSnow management for crop production on the Canadian Prairies
Publication TypeConference Proceedings
Year of Conference1980
AuthorsSteppuhn, H.
Conference Name48th Annual Western Snow Conference
Series TitleProceedings of the 48th Annual Western Snow Conference
Date PublishedApril 1980
PublisherWestern Snow Conference
Conference LocationLaramie, Wyoming
KeywordsDryland soil water, Semiarid - crop production, Snow management, Snowcover, Soil water enhancement

About 60% of the total area comprising the Canadian Prairies is devoted to the production of dryland crops, chiefly spring-seeded cereals, oilseeds and forages. Summer-fallowing to achieve adequate soil water prior to seeding is commonly practiced and removes 30% of the cultivated land from production annually. Although the natural snowcover contributes significantly to the water economy of the region, greater utilization of the total snow resource available could vastly reduce the area summerfallowed and increase production. Snow management has shown the ability to gain an extra 50 mm of overwinter soil water recharge, which about equals the extra quantity gained by summerfallowing. Manipulation to enhance snowcover retention also benefits the survival of winter crops. Management practices designed to harvest wind-blown snow on the Prairies include distributing field-sited fences, maintaining tall crop stubbles, planting arborescent field barriers, modifying soil surfaces, and leaving unharvested crop strips.