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Will Corn, Soybeans Grow Out of Frost Damage? Here’s Some Ways to Assess

Frost damage to corn. Photo: Mike Swoish

Over the weekend, Michigan saw another frost event. This time happening in pockets mostly localized to the western part of the state on muck ground.

Mike Swoish, Pioneer agronomist, thinks the crop should grow through it, but there are growers weighing replant decisions.

“The important think to think about right now is how many viable pants you still have left because if they do regrow, in general, they’re going to yield better than a plant that you were going to plant this week since we’re getting into June,” he said. “Most of the crop that was large enough to have pretty severe frost damage was probably planted early or mid-May, so that’s got a substantial jump in terms of root development and everything else. Replanting right now in non-irrigated fields is a little bit risky.”

In many cases, soybeans will be the most susceptible to the frost since its growing point is now above the soil.

“With soybeans, we need to look for regrowth, usually above the cotyledons is where you’ll most likely find it,” said Swoish. “From what I’ve seen, corn has a little bit more protection against frost. Unless we got temperatures below 28 degrees, that growing point was probably protected unless your corn was at V4 or V5.”

Less than one week ago, we saw lows in the 30s, and this weekend, temps are expected to top out in the low 90s. Swoish says this is putting the plants through a lot of stress, but warmer weather should encourage growth.

“With corn, anything V2 or earlier, it should have enough energy left to grow through this relatively unscathed,” said Swoish. “V3 or V4, if there’s just a little leaf burn, that’s probably not a big issue, and you shouldn’t notice any yield damage. If it’s pretty much dead above the soil surface like I’ve seen in some muck, you have to find growing points and determine whether or not you have new growing tissue. Even if you do, there could be enough dead tissue that we actually block some of that new growth in the whirl from coming through.”

If you’re not sure if you’re corn will come out of the frost, Swoish said to check out the plants.

“In a field that was a little bit more advanced on muck, we cut the plants off at where we saw frost damage,” he said. “Visually, that was a lot easier way to observe if the plants were growing back. If they’re not, then it’s an easy replant decision. If they are, then we have to decide if that new tissue can grow through the frozen tissue.”

For more information, talk with your local Pioneer agronomist.