Some Early Corn Gets Nipped by the Cold


by Pam Smith, Crops Technology Editor

BLUE MOUND, Ill. (DTN) — The corn seedlings south of Blue Mound, Ill., looked like lettuce when the refrigerator crisper drawer gets too cold. Although mostly still green, the leaves had a slightly transparent look and they were droopy.

A few planters were still rolling Wednesday morning, but the cold that descended on the area also has central Illinois farmers droopy and more than a little apprehensive. After a record start on planting, the worry that the season was still young materialized over night.

David Brown, a Decatur, Ill., farmer and WAND television commentator, tracked temperatures in a Blue Mound field from 4 a.m. to 7 a.m. on Wednesday, April 11, and watched the thermometer dip to 22 degrees and hold for 45 minutes. “It will probably be a couple of days before we know the extent of the damage,” he said. Although most of the corn in this area is just coming up, several early-planted fields are approaching vulnerable growth stages.

Extension information from Minnesota and the University of North Dakota — areas where they know all about late freezes — indicated a frost or light freeze may destroy exposed leaves without damaging the growing point below the soil surface when corn growth stage is V3 to V5. Damage to the plant above the soil surface during this time may look ugly, but it is said to typically result in very little yield reduction.

DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Bryce Anderson is watching the impact of this cold snap carefully. “Research on spring freeze injury to corn done at the University of Kentucky concludes that corn that is emerging to about V6 growth stage will suffer some injury from temperatures between 28 and 32 degrees Fahrenheit but generally will survive with no yield loss,” he said.

“The growing point on corn between emergence and V6 is still below the soil surface. But the quick start to corn emergence and growth may have plants right on the edge of being vulnerable to freeze kill. In addition,” Anderson said, “we know that temperatures can vary with even slight changes in terrain, and this may have allowed for pockets of killing damage within a larger field. Eastern Corn Belt temperatures featured low to mid 30s in most of Illinois early this morning (Wednesday). Lows Tuesday morning were mostly in the mid-30s.”

Last week, DTN profiled Jay Ryan, a Pana, Ill., farmer who planted one field of corn on March 13 and another on March 15 that is now approaching the V5 growth stage. Wednesday morning, Ryan was on the phone to his agronomist before breakfast. “I felt better when he told me soil temperatures were reading 38 degrees to 39 degrees at the 1 inch depth,” said Ryan.

“My home thermometer recorded 33.2 degrees for a low, my truck said 31 degrees at 6:15 a.m. and the internet said 28 degrees. I could get a little tissue damage on those early fields, but so far we’re hanging tough,” said Ryan. “We’ll know more in a couple of days.”


© Copyright 2012 DTN/The Progressive Farmer, A Telvent Brand. All rights reserved.

Posted with DTN Permission by Haylie Shipp


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x