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Surviving the cold snap

Agriculture.com Staff 05/10/2010 @ 1:10pm

If weekend temperatures had you digging out your cold weather gear, you're not alone. Unseasonably cool temperatures hit much of the Corn Belt over the weekend, some tilting below the freezing point and nipping some of the newly planted crops. And, with a lot of corn and soybeans already planted relatively early, some farmers say they're worried about crop losses.

"Twenty-eight was what my thermometer said at 6:00 AM," Agriculture.com Marketing Talk member Mike M2692830 said Sunday morning. "Right now at 11:00 AM, corn has this darker green appearance. Looking like the leaves maybe be starting to show signs of getting frozen."

Other farmers say their corn appeared unscathed from the frost and freeze, but other crops -- forage and soybeans, namely -- are showing signs of damage that may require more attention down the road.

"I'm wondering if there won't be [soybean] replanting because of cold and wet [conditions] doing a number on germ?" says another farmer in the discussion.

The fact soybeans aren't up yet in most areas where they've already been planted may end up being a blessing after the frosty weekend.

"I don't think a lot of soybeans were emerged because of the cold wet weather, but I would imagine the ones that were peaking thru are dust," says Marketing Talk member Red Steele.

But, even if young corn plants are showing signs of being burned by the weekend cold snap, that doesn't necessarily equate to a loss in yields once those acres are harvested, other farmers say. "The last time we had a freeze this late was in 2004. It got down to 26 degrees for 4 hours on the 12th of May," says Marketing Talk member GoredHusker. "We had record yields that year on corn, but it did do damage to the wheat."

The cool, damp conditions of late do leave room for some problems to develop. Even though planting and emergence conditions were nearly ideal in some parts of the Corn Belt, the quick cooldown -- accompanied by a damp cycle in the last 2 weeks -- could harm germination and increase chances of corn seedlings being hit by fungal infections, say Iowa State University (ISU) Extension agronomists Roger Elmore and Lori Abendroth. Other potential setbacks include:

  • "Corkscrew" seedlings. This emergence problem is brought on by the seed absorbing water in soils that are cooler than 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Soil crusting. This is a common symptom of wet soils at planting or heavy rains right after planting, which can ultimately reduce stands. "Significant stand reductions lower yield potential," according to Elmore and Abendroth.
  • "Leafing out" underground. "This occurs most often in crusted soils and also appears assocaited with imbibitional chilling (corkscrew seedings)," the ISU agronomists add.
  • Variable emergence/reduced plant population. "Variable emergence and growth will reduce yield," they add.

Looking ahead, this week's weather will continue the cool, damp trend: Up to 4 inches of rain will fall in parts of the Midwest, with most of the region seeing at least some rainfall and cooler-than-normal temperatures through this week. Major systems moving through the region will likely carry with them the potential for severe storms before moving out next week and unveiling a warmer, dryer trend for the week of May 17, according to QT Weather ag meteorologist Allen Motew.

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