Use Imagery and Boots on the Ground to Scout Freeze-Damaged Fields

Freeze damage in Michigan in May. ( Aaron Brooker )

Farmers across the Midwest have experienced freezes this week and past weekend. Now they need to take the time to scout corn and soybeans to determine replant.

“Overnight [Monday] it was down to around 28 degrees here,” says Erich Eller, owner of ForeFront Ag Solutions in Indiana. “I would say it was very widespread, but in northeast Indiana I see a very low percentage of the crop actually emerged—so that’s been a good thing, given this event.”

Check out corn and soybean fields this week, and over the next few weeks. Eller recommends a bird’s eye view with drones or satellites to help you get a more wholistic view of stands. If fields are already emerged, you can go ahead and check out imagery or scout. If the seeds are still just in the soil, keep an eye out over the next few weeks to see how plants emerge.

“With imagery, we can actually start to make a lot of decisions on whether we tear up the entire field and start over, or do we spot in,” Eller says. “We can use that imagery to do variable rate.”

When scouting emerged fields, you can check corn in the first couple of days for damage. Because the growing point is below ground until about V4, there might not be as much damage as the above-ground leaves make you think. Check the growing point by splitting the stalk, if it’s white and firm it’s ok, if it’s brown and mushy it’s a dead plant. Check multiple spots in the field to make replant decisions.

Soybeans take a little longer to show damage. If they’re emerged, the growing point is above ground. Cotelyton leaves, the first two, tend to be heartier but if they’ve fallen off and there are no additional trifoliate leaves it’s a dead plant. If you have a trifoliate, wait a few days to see if new growth emerges—if it does the plant survived, if not it’s likely dead. Just like corn, check multiple locations throughout the field to determine replant.

Fields that haven’t emerged are likely in good shape.

“Our soil temperature is averaging between 45 and 48 degrees [F.] at four inches,” Eller says. “This weekend we’re looking at mid-70s to low 80s for highs and up to two inches of rain. I think this crop is really going to take off.”

Read more weather news here:

Expect Wet, Chilly Days for Midwest and Northeast

Prevent Plant in South Dakota, North Dakota Could Rival Last Year

Worst Cold Snap Since 1966 Has Farmers Assessing Potential Damage