Will rolling snow make it stay? One Alberta farm is trying it


Southern Alberta has been in a multi-year drought, so when the most substantial snowfall in, well, years, fell last week, there’s been plenty of talk of how to keep the snow where it is in hopes it percolates in to the soil.

There’s also been action, and one farmer’s innovative approach to water conservation has sparked plenty of discussion. Shaun Haney and Peter Johnson recently discussed (at the 8:21 mark) an experimental practice that could offer a glimmer of hope to parched farmlands: rolling snow to create a compact snowpack, thereby preserving moisture before it’s lost to the relentless prairie winds.

Kara Oosterhuis, formerly a field reporter with RealAgriculture, alongside her family, decided to take an unconventional approach to holding on to snow by using a land roller, typically employed for flattening fields for crops such as peas or soybeans

Check out the video where Kara’s dad Gerard is rolling the freshly fallen snow to help prevent the snow from being whisked away by the wind, a common predicament in the wind-swept regions of Southwestern Alberta.


In areas such as Lethbridge, Alberta, where the wind seldom ceases, the idea of creating a compacted snow layer could could be pivotal in retaining precious moisture. The eventual efficacy of snow rolling, however, may vary based on several factors, including the initial water content of the snow, temperature conditions, and the presence of stubble to naturally trap the snow.

The experiment also brings in to question the balance of effort, cost, and benefit, especially considering the relatively low moisture content of snow. Yet, in the face of adversity and the pressing need for innovative solutions to combat drought, such experiments are invaluable.

Not all farmers that viewed the viral video on Instagram or Twitter are buying into the idea of running a land roller over the most recent dump of snow, but that is to be expected. There are several people in the thread who are more than curious about the results.

We look forward to seeing the results of the rolled parts of the field versus the check strips at harvest time. If you have any thoughts on this idea or would like to share some of your out-of-the-box thinking, shoot us an email at [email protected].

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