Early Frost Threatens Late-Planted Crops

Freeze warnings and frost advisories for the night of Wednesday, October 2. (National Weather Service)
October 2, 2019 - 6:00pm

Cold and wet weather this week could damage Nebraska field crops that aren’t mature yet.


About half of the state’s corn crop, 48%, hasn’t reached maturity yet, according to a USDA crop report released this week. That’s far below the 82% maturity at this time last year. Soybeans crops are also about 15% behind last year.

"That means if there's an early frost, yields would be reduced," said Roger Elmore, Prof. of Agronomy at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 

Average First Frost/Freeze Dates

Credit: National Weather Service 

Frost is predicted Wednesday night for at least part of the state.

The National Weather Service has issued a freeze warning for all of the panhandle and a frost advisory for much of central Nebraska.

But fields are in a much better place this week compared to last; the previous USDA report indicated only 37% maturity for corn. 

"The warm weather that we've had since the middle of September has been a blessing, for corn especially," Elmore said. "What that has done is accelerated our pace toward maturity and by doing so has reduced the chance for frost damage." 

The heavy rainfall in eastern Nebraska this week could delay harvest for all crops. 

"The cool spell here is going to slow things down again," Elmore said. "Wet conditions at harvest time are never very good for corn and soybeans." 

But those conditions are good for wheat, Elmore says, which farmers are planting around this time. The USDA says 71% of wheat crops are planted, compared to 69% at this time last year. 

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