ST. PAUL, Minn.– It may be springtime, but the Minnesota Department of Transportation already is thinking about winter. The agency is interested in talking with Minnesota farmers who are willing to leave a minimum of six rows of corn stalks stand through next winter to earn money and reduce the amount of snow blowing on state roads.
Farmers can connect with MnDOT to learn about the program and determine if they are in a location that needs snow protection. Additionally, MnDOT can help farmers look at programs that assist in planting pollinator vegetation, which provides benefits to pollinators and complements the results of standing corn rows.
The standing corn rows are part of MnDOT’s blowing snow control program, which started about 15 years ago and pays landowners to create snow fences or vegetation that hampers snow drifts.
Corn rows break the wind’s force, causing the snow to collect around the corn rows instead of drifting onto the roads. The rows improve driver visibility during “white out” conditions and improve road surface conditions, making roads safer for the traveling public and also reducing road maintenance costs.
“Standing corn rows improve driver visibility, reduce accidents and reduce the need for snow plowing,” said Shannon Wait, a MnDOT Living Snow Fence district coordinator. “They also decrease the potential of ice forming on the pavement.”
Payments are based per acre using a University of Minnesota calculator tool to determine fair compensation that factors in yield, production costs and inconvenience factors.
MnDOT looks for fields on the north and west sides of state highways and interstates where drifting is a problem. Effective corn rows need to be about 200 feet from the highway centerline. Agreements generally require farmers to leave six to 16 rows of corn in various arrangements until the end of March. Farmers may coordinate with nonprofit groups, like 4-H or Future Farmers of America, to hand-pick the corn as long as corn stalks are left in good condition.
The standing corn program is a one-year program. For more information, contact Dan Gullickson, Living Snow Fence Program coordinator, at 651 366-3610, or visit www.dot.state.mn.us/environment/livingsnowfence.