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Fencing the snow – Living snowfence program pays in more ways than one

By Staff | Jan 19, 2008

ESTHERVILLE–If you drive on Highway 9 east toward Sac City, you’ll see a number of farmers who have left corn rows standing. It isn’t that someone got lazy and left the job undone.

That corn is standing there for a reason.

Mark Neppel, whose farm is along Highway 9, has left a good-sized stretch from just east of his buildings nearly to county road N56. You’ll notice, by the way, there’s barely any snow on Highway 9.

Neppel has participated in the Iowa Department of Transportation’s living snowfence program for the past several years.

“It really works well,” Neppel said. “I don’t know why more people don’t do it.”

If you compare the amount of snow held back by a traditional snow fence to corn rows, it’s easy to see that standing corn is at least as effective. It also saves the labor and cost of putting up all that fence.

Neppel said the DOT reimburses him for the estimated yield on about three acres. While he has the option of being able to pick the corn by hand and leave the stalks standing, he chooses to combine in the spring. He realizes the same moisture content in spring as he would have in the fall.

“I do it because I want to be part of the program,” Neppel said. “I just want to be a team player.”

In addition to getting paid double for his corn, another advantage is–you guessed it–pheasants.

“I can sit here in my office and count 55 pheasants that fly from my grove to the corn every day,” Neppel said.

One reason he may not leave the corn standing every year is that he might be in a hurry to get harvest done and, quite naturally, forget to leave a few rows standing.

“I try to do it annually,” Neppel said.

For details on the program, call the DOT at (515) 239-1355.

Contact Michael Tidemann at (712) 362-2622 or mtidemann@esthervilledailynews.com and visit our photo sharing Web site at cu.esthervilledailynews.com