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Seed depth factor for freeze effect on emerged corn

Field after field of young corn purple in color and flat on the ground was not a pretty sight for many Mid-South corn producers after the emerged crop was exposed to freezing temperatures in early April.

In many cases, corn can recover from the injury, depending on factors such as soil type, planting depth and temperature.

Erick Larson, Mississippi Extension corn specialist, has seen a significant amount of freeze injury in the state’s corn crop, but “the crop should be able to recover. Corn’s growing point is underground until it gets about 12 inches tall. So it has the potential to fully recover given good growing conditions. More than likely, its growing point did not sustain any direct damage from the freeze.

“Corn that is most vulnerable to the freeze damage is any that exceeded a foot in height and had its growing point aboveground. Most of this corn was down in the central Delta south of Greenville, and it didn’t sustain near as much freeze damage. Most of the damage was limited to leaf tip burn.”

Corn damage could be more dire for some producers in Arkansas, according to Stacey Bruff, a technical services representative for Delta and Pine Land Co. After touring through lower Clay and Greene counties, several corn fields looked to have significant stand loss.

“There’s every possibility that some of these fields will have to be replanted. A consistent theme I’ve heard is to wait five days and see what greens up.”

Clay County Arkansas Extension agent Andy Vangilder reports that stand loss could reach as high as 50 percent in his county, depending on soil type, when the field was planted and how deep the seed was planted. Grain contracts, herbicide usage and optimum planting dates are other factors in any replant decision. “Most of the frozen corn just didn’t get planted deep enough. Our growers are scrambling to see if they can get replanting seed.”

Vangilder says this is his first experience with cold temperatures on emerged corn, “so I’m doing all the reading and studying I can do.”

Assessing damage to the Mid-South wheat crop may not be complete for a while, according to Larson. “But I imagine we’ll have some pretty significant yield loss in various parts of the state.”

Larson noted that the extreme north Delta and northeast part of Mississippi is where most of the damage to wheat occurred. “We had a lot of temperatures that were less than 30 degrees.”

No doubt, temperatures have been wacky this spring. For example, Muscle Shoals, Ala., posted a daily record low of 26 degrees on April 7, four days after it tied its monthly record high of 87 degrees. North Little Rock posted its first April freeze since 1987.


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