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  • Kent Casson

Shier shares thoughts on cold

An area field is covered in snow.

Believe it or not, this extreme cold can be beneficial for farmers. Just ask Chenoa’s own Marion Shier, who works as an agronomist for United Soils.

If freezing temperatures get deep enough, they can kill insects and other harmful creatures in the soil which gives growers some peace of mind as they enter another growing season.

“For a lot of the insects we are concerned about, the soil has to be about 20 degrees at four to five inches for about 10 days,” explained Shier.

The ground may only be frozen down to a few inches at this point and Shier doesn’t feel the soil temperature that deep is quite at 20 degrees yet. Snow on the ground often acts as an insulator on top of the soil.

“Ideally, we’d like to have bare ground and get the ground cold and keep it,” Shier notes.

While some of the weaker pests in the soil may be killed or hurt by the cold, Shier does not believe this will eliminate or devastate the insect population.

Bare ground may be good for killing the insects in winter but it is not good for the winter wheat crop, which needs snow cover to protect it from the elements.

“Hopefully (the wheat) won’t have too much or any damage depending on the state of growth and how much snow is actually on it.”

There is no need to be overly concerned about those cover crops out in fields since some species are known as “winter kill” which means they are dead already over the winter. Other cover crops species are tougher than wheat and should be alright.

Shier acknowledges the weather in Illinois can abruptly change so he is not saying things will turn warm and dry quickly this spring but it is of course a possibility. The current forecast calls for potential snow events over the next week.

“You can’t rule out the fact that it is a possibility the weather could turn favorably and we could get out and start working in the fields early but we are normally looking at the end of March or first of April before we really get serious in the field,” Shier said.

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