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Headed for an early frost?

Crop development is behind schedule, making the prospect of a frost even at the normal time a frightening one for corn and soybean farmers. Will it happen earlier than normal?

Right now, signs point to no. Above-normal temperatures as far north as North Dakota will likely prevent any Arctic air from creeping south and driving the mercury south of the frost or freezing point, says MDA Weather Services senior ag meteorologist Don Keeney.

"Corn growth remains well behind normal in many areas, and this combined with the recent cool temperatures has spurred lots of talk of whether the corn will make it to maturity before frost occurs," he says. "Taking a look at our forecast temperatures for September, above-normal readings are expected across the northern Plains and into the Prairies. This would effectively limit the source of cold air from Canada."

Chances of a crop-nipping frost are actually greater farther south; in the Corn Belt, though, Keeney says at least 50% of the corn -- a common meteorological measure for frost damage -- would be safe from first frost damage starting September 14.

"A 'normal' frost occurrence would likely result in some limited damage to corn across the northern Midwest, mainly Minnesota and western Wisconsin, but the majority of the crop would be safe," Keeney says.

At this point, Keeney is optimistic that frost won't precede this "normal" timeframe.

"Based on the current forecast for September, we would anticipate a normal or even slightly later-than-normal frost this year," he adds.



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