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Frost Warning Issued Tonight for Northern WisconsinFrost Warning Issued Tonight for Northern Wisconsin

Some growers concerned about damage to hay crops.

Fran O'Leary

May 27, 2008

1 Min Read

Frost warnings are being issued for tonight for several counties in northern Wisconsin. A frost this late in May is unusual and has many alfalfa, clover and grass growers concerned about damage to their crops. However, Dan Undersander, University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension and research forage agronomist says, a killing frost (32 degrees) will have no permanent affect on the hay crop.

"Alfalfa and clover would not be expected to have frost damage unless air temperature has been below 26 to 24 degrees for 4 hours or longer," Undersander says. He adds:

* Frost damage will be terminal to buds (tops) of the alfalfa and clover stems. If frozen, tips will wilt in a day or two and then gradually turn brown.

* Further growth of the stand will cease so it might as well be harvested to allow regrowth of second cutting.

Grasses will suffer frost damage in the same temperature range however yield response will be minimal, Undersander notes.

"The leaf tips, if frosted will gradually turn brown but, since the growing point is at the leaf base near the stem, future growth will not cease unless the entire leaf is frozen," he says. "Seed set will be affected but hay or haylage should be harvested before this is a consideration."

So watch for wilting of the alfalfa or clover one to two days after the last frost.

"If it occurs, harvest as soon as possible," Undersander says. "If frost occurs in grasses, do not harvest unless the entire top growth is frozen."

About the Author(s)

Fran O'Leary

Wisconsin Agriculturist Editor

Even though Fran was born and raised on a farm in Illinois, she has spent most of her life in Wisconsin. She moved to the state when she was 18 years old and later graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

Fran has 25 years of experience writing, editing and taking pictures. Before becoming editor of the Wisconsin Agriculturist in 2003, she worked at Johnson Hill Press in Fort Atkinson as a writer and editor of farm business publications and at the Janesville Gazette in Janesville as farm editor and feature writer. Later, she signed on as a public relations associate at Bader Rutter in Brookfield, and served as managing editor and farm editor at The Reporter, a daily newspaper in Fond du Lac.

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