Hard freeze Tuesday morning, but agronomists don’t expect major plant damage

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“You take what Mother Nature gives you and watch it ” says Greg Schroeder, Farmer, Plymouth County.

Our second hard freeze of the growing season is expected Monday night with warnings in effect for parts of Iowa and Nebraska. On Friday night, temperatures tumbled to a low of 19 in Sioux City, just 3 shy of the record of 16 set back in 1928. 
 
Monday night temperatures are expected to plummet to the low to mid 20’s, leaving plants like alfalfa at risk for freezing. 
 
“If the temperature at this time of year gets below 27, then it can start to do some damage to the alfalfa. Below 32, below freezing, it can freeze some of the leaves. But when it gets below 27 we start to get more concern that it freezes lower into the plant” says Greg Schroeder, Farmer, Plymouth County.
 
“We maybe see some damage on some leaves out there from the frost, more than likely if it’s real serious we’ll lose some leaves, but plants will re-leaf as far as trees go” says Joel DeJong, Iowa State University Extension Field Agronomist.
 
DeJong says if any fruits have started to blossom, those would have died in Friday night’s freeze.
 
The colder soil temperatures have also kept Northwest Iowa farmers from planting. Ideally, farmers look for soil temperatures to be around 50 degrees 4 inches deep, and warming. Over the weekend, they were in the upper 30’s.
 
“It very much depends on what the weather conditions are like, but from mid-April through early May, we often will wonder around that range of being a little bit above 50, we’ll get a cold front come through and we’ll drop a little below 50, and go back to it” says Joel DeJong, Iowa State University Extension Field Agronomist.
 
DeJong says although soil temperatures on Monday were on the cool side in the 40’s, that’s typical for this time of year. With a warming 7-day forecast, soil temperatures are expected to rise and farmers could start planting by the end of this week.
 
“Last year we started on April 16th, which is maybe a little bit earlier than normal, but about normal anymore… so we are on schedule” says Greg Schroeder, Farmer, Plymouth County.
 
“Wet, cool and windy weather kept farmers from the fields for much of the past week and mean we will need a couple of days of warmer temperatures and dry weather before we see widespread activity this spring…The weather has been very good for cover crops that were seeded last fall to help protect water quality and it is exciting to see them greening up and growing on fields across the state” says Bill Northey, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture.
 
Farmers say the soil temperatures are at least warm enough right now to help the plants from completely freezing Monday night, alleviating some of the concern.
 
If you do have tender plants out, you should cover them with blankets or plastic to keep them insulated and protected overnight.
 

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