Spring Frost Damage in Corn and Soybeans
Frost damage occurs in corn and soybeans when plants are exposed to freezing or below-freezing temperatures. Damage can occur to the plants above and below the soil when temperatures range from 28 to 32°F and colder. Corn and soybean plants exposed to air temperatures below 28°F are often lethal and prevent plants from undergoing full recovery from injuries. The key in assessing frost damage is waiting five days to allow for any potential growth recovery or rehabilitation to occur.
If frost damage occurs below the soybeans’ cotyledons – the first leaves that emerge above ground – the plant will mostly likely fail to recover. Wilted and dried leaves will often remain on the plant after a frost event. In recovering soybeans, new leaves will emerge at the site of cotyledons – the first pair of embryonic leaves that appear above ground. If auxiliary buds growing at the juncture of the plant’s stem and cotyledons are not frozen, the plant is on track for recovery.
Since corn plants are protected by soil for a longer period of time relative to soybeans, they are less susceptible to lethal frost injury. However, temperatures below 28°F can cause damage below the soil and compromise growth, leading to poor stands. Once the growing point is above ground, corn plants exposed to 32°F for a few hours and 28°F for a few minutes can be lethal. After an initial frost, continued cool temperatures can decrease yield due to the onset of stalk rot diseases.
If frost occurs before V6, yield loss is minimal. In recovering corn plants, you should see new leaf growth emerging from whorls. Yellow-colored tissue that exists above the growing point is a sign of regeneration.