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Mike Bryant
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Winter Driving: Can Standing Corn Make The Road Safer And Save Money?

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Last winter, the Minnesota Department of Transportation started a project of planting living snow fences of shrubs and prairie grasses along I-94 between Freeport and Albany. The project involved the state working with local conservation groups and landowners at 64 sites over the 20 miles of planting. The idea was the result of a study that was started in 2001. They found that less salt and sand was used, there were no accidents, and that there was less blowing and drifting snow.

On average, Minnesota taxpayers spend about $100-million on annual snow removal, trying to keep the roads clear of snow drifts and ice patches to help prevent accidents. MnDOT is now looking at using standing corn. Corn has been used in other states going back to the 50’s.

Minnesota farmers who are willing to leave about 16-rows of corn stalks standing throughout the winter can earn $1.50 per bushel more than the current corn prices. It is believed that the cornstalks serve as snow fences capable of capturing 12-thousand tons of snow over a quarter of a mile area.

This is the kind of road changes that save lives and hopefully in the long run will save money. It may end up being a plan for the whole state.