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Hoosier Perspectives: Some plant injuries are not as bad as they first seem.

Allison Lund

February 26, 2024

3 Min Read
A snowy backyard scene
DON’T PANIC: This snowy sight from April 2021 could send folks into a panic and make them rush into replant decisions. In cases like this, agronomists say it’s best to “let it ride.” Tom J. Bechman

When something seems wrong, it only feels right to jump on fixing it that very moment. Some things need immediate attention to get them back in working order, while others shuffle along until they either improve or meet their eventual end.

I’m usually quick to replace something when it isn’t working right anymore, but as a college student, I learned that wasn’t always possible on my budget. Even now, I tend to find ways to make things last longer, and sometimes I can get them to work even better!

Should you jump on a replant?

This idea of “limping things along” can apply to making replant decisions. Alex Lindsey, associate professor of crop ecophysiology and agronomy at Ohio State University, says it can be best to wait and see what happens after suffering crop damage from cold temperatures.

“If you get frost damage from an event that happens for maybe two hours or four hours, chances are it’s going to look a lot worse than it will be for plant survival,” Lindsey says. “The current recommendation is, if you see dead plants, let it ride.”

He explains that the stand may look ugly, but the plants will most likely survive and grow to maturity, produce seeds, and experience minimal yield impact — at least when it comes to corn. This is because frost damage is typically above the active growing point on the plant.

As for bean seedlings, it takes lower temperatures to cause injury, but if seedlings die, they don’t grow back because the growing point is above the ground. Still, it’s best to wait and assess how many died vs. how many suffered minor injuries.

“On the whole, it’s not really something we worry too much about if it happens early enough in the season,” Lindsey adds.

Easier said than done

I feel like this idea can be easy to teach, but it’s harder to implement when the time comes. Should I really leave something that looks horrible alone and hope for the best? How could I be expected to sit still and let that one ride?

I like to crochet — it’s my favorite hobby when I get some free time. Occasionally, I start a project that I’m so excited for, only for it to seem like it’s not working up correctly when I’m about halfway through it. That leaves me with the decision to “frog” the project, which is unraveling all my work, or to keep trudging through. If I frog it, there’s little chance of me starting over.

Usually, I’ll push through, and the final product looks perfect. What I find keeps me motivated during the ugly stages of the project is knowing that I am following the pattern exactly as it is written. Following some recommendations for planting could also ease your mind when it comes to frost damage later in the spring.

Advice for minimizing frost damage

Lindsey has some advice for planting to potentially reduce later frost damage:

  • Stagger planting dates.

  • Avoid soil temperatures lower than 46 degrees F within 24 hours after planting.

  • Consider a phosphorus fertilizer starter.

  • Test seed lot vigor prior to planting.

These tips won’t prevent frost damage by any means, but they could spread out some of the risk. And for folks like me who might be quick to jump on fixing something, it can help you stay calm and “let it ride” when facing an ugly situation.

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About the Author(s)

Allison Lund

Allison Lund is a staff writer for Indiana Prairie Farmer. She graduated from Purdue University with a major in agricultural communications and a minor in crop science. She served as president of Purdue’s Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow chapter. In 2022, she received the American FFA Degree. 

Lund grew up on a cash grain farm in south-central Wisconsin, where the primary crops were corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa. Her family also raised chewing tobacco and Hereford cattle. She spent most of her time helping with the tobacco crop in the summer and raising Boer goats for FFA projects. 

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