Many area farmers are entering the busy harvest season but before cutting down all their crops, MnDOT is looking for farmers to take part in their standing corn rows program.

In the winter months, snow might be nice to look at... but for drivers, it's a nuisance they'd rather avoid.

That has MnDOT and the University of Minnesota Extension working with landowners to keep the roads clear, especially in some 3,700 problem sites on state highways.

MnDOT Natural Resource Program Coordinator Dan Gullickson said, "Living snow fences are very effective at controlling blowing and drifting snow. Basically, we need to have some structure, probably 150 to 200 feet away from the road."

Living snow fences can includes shrubs, trees and native grasses that can provide a long-term benefit to roads.

University of Minnesota Extension Educator Gary Wyatt said, "Certainly a golden opportunity for farmers to look at this opportunity, with MnDOT's compensation as well and they could put together a really nice package for 15 years and have a living snow fence protect that highway."

MnDOT and the University of Minnesota Extension also have a program that utilizes one of the abundant crops along Minnesota roads. The standing corn rows program compensates farmers for leaving stocks still standing in the winter months.

Last year, that compensation averaged $1000 per acre... yielding benefits for farmers, MnDOT and motorists.

Gullickson said, "These structures, whether they be living snow fences of trees and shrubs or standing corn, they can intercept that blowing snow and form that drift away from the roadway, helping to improve the mobility of the traveling public and  help reduce some of our snow and ice operational costs associated with salt application and heavy equipment."

MnDOT recommends a minimum of six rows and up to 16, making a big difference on the roads.

The program also includes a way farmers can ensure the ears of corn are harvested.

Wyatt said, "Farmer has an opportunity to hand pick their corn and they select a group, a volunteer group, youth group or adult group, such as a 4–H club or FFA chapter."

Farmers can also use hay bales and silage bags to keep snow for blowing and drifting on the roads.

To learn about the living snow fence and standing corn rows programs, visit:

To contact someone about the program, people can contact their local MnDOT office or

Dan Gullickson at 651-366-3610 and Gary Wyatt at 507-381-3092.

--KEYC News 12