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Some Southern Alberta crops could benefit from fall snowstorms come spring: scientist

WATCH ABOVE: The fall snow may be getting old for many southern Albertans, but for some farmers, it’s actually a welcome sight. Quinn Campbell explains why.

In southern Alberta, there is one group finding the silver lining in the abnormally large amount of snow this fall: some farmers.

“This is going to maybe make things go a little more positive going into spring next year,” said retired agronomy research scientist Ross McKenzie.

READ MORE: Southern Alberta sugar beet farmers unable to harvest nearly half of 2019 crop

Already this season, Southern Alberta has seen major snow accumulation.

The average snowfall for Lethbridge for September through to November, which is recorded at the Lethbridge Airport, is 30 centimetres. This year, so far, 66 cm has been recorded. Last year, 17 cm was recorded.

“Southern Alberta hasn’t had enough moisture for quite a while now.

“The past few months, the southeastern corner of the province, including Lethbridge, has had more snowfall than normal, which is great news and that’s actually helped boost them out of that abnormally dry state that they’ve been in for quite a while now.”

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The region is currently in the midst of its sixth snowstorm in just two months. The storm at the end of September provided the most moisture.

“We actually had 30 to 35 milliliters of actual moisture in that snow and all of that will have percolated into the soil to contribute to storage soil moisture for next year,” McKenzie said.

That snowfall translated to actual moisture going into the soil is more than double the normal amount for most surrounding areas.

“From a farmer’s standpoint, it [soil moisture] is absolutely critical because for a crop like wheat, barley or canola, typically it takes at least four inches, or 100 milliliters, of water just to get that crop to the point it can produce any kind of yield at all,” added McKenzie.

He also said the snow will be beneficial as long as there isn’t too much frost in the ground.