Michiana soil temperatures and impacts
This time of year we start to see temperatures back on the upward trend heading into spring. Those warmer temperatures are very important, not only for us, but plants and our soil as well.
Ground temperatures in Wanatah, Berrien Springs, and Dowagiac range from 31-33 degrees, while areas near Cassopolis are seeing soil temperatures at 40 degrees. These temperatures are recorded at 2 inches under the surface. Why are we seeing a bigger difference in soil temperatures over a small area that has dealt with relatively similar air temperatures? We have to look at a few attributes of the land to explain why this is; first is the composition of the soil. Mineral matter will heat faster than organic matter. Soil structure is also important, here we look to see if the soil is more clay or sand. Soil moisture also plays a big part in how fast we warm our soil temperatures. Another key player is vegetation, the more vegetation the cooler the soil will stay. Last but not least is topography, areas of land that are sloped will actually heat faster than flat ground.
Why are all of these important? Well, with warmer soil comes the start of new plant life heading into spring. Soil temperatures effect seed germination, physical properties of soil, organic matter decomposition, availability of nutrients, root growth, and plant diseases. Seed germination will become very important in late April and early May when farms start to plant. We also need warmer soils to speed up the decomposition of organic matter on the ground to help provide nutrients for future plants. Lastly root growth, roots prefer 70-80 degree soil temperatures for peek growth.
Not only are plants effected by the ground temperatures, but so are those construction projects you have been putting off until the warmer weather returns. If there is a layer of frozen soil, and you go to pour the foundation of a new home or building, then it may settle differently as the soil thaws. This can lead to un-leveled structures or cracks in the foundations.