Editor's note: A previous version of this story had incorrect math. This is updated to represent snirt as worth $82 in crop nutrients.
That’s money in the ditch. If it were $82 in cash, would you pull over and grab it? That’s what western Minnesota “snirt” (snow and dirt) contains in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Jodi DeJong-Hughes, University of Minnesota Extension regional education specialist, sampled the top inch of snirt in ditches along Minnesota Highway 40. Laboratory analysis and math revealed that this field lost $51.30 in nitrogen, $7.80 worth of phosphorus and $23.50 in potassium in the ditch.
These figures do not even include the most valuable soil components of topsoil (clay particles) that blow away before heavier particles settle into the ditch. How do you assign a value to valuable soil organic matter, microbes and minerals that lie in a ditch?
You can reduce this loss by maintaining soil residue cover year ‘round, reducing tillage to improve soil aggregation and using cover crops, perennial crops and shelterbelts to anchor soil and reduce wind speeds. Get more information.