Weather Gives Planting Cold Shoulder

Button Up Baby Beans: It's Going to Get Cold Out There

Pamela Smith
By  Pamela Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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Those baby soybeans that are just emerging could be headed for a few cold nights this week. (DTN/Progressive Farmer file photo by Gregg Hillyer)

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- "Send it" may be a popular phrase when it comes to planting, but this week, many farmers across the Midwest are contemplating whether they should "park it" for a few days.

Cold and snow now threaten a wide swath of the country where corn and soybean planting has already been going full throttle. DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Bryce Anderson said the U.S. east of the Rockies definitely has a colder pattern on the way.

"This includes a frost or freeze threat from the Southern Plains through the Midwest," Anderson said.


That caused Kyle Meece, an agronomist with United Prairie LLC, Tolono, Illinois, to issue an email alert suggesting his customers literally "chill" until this patch of weather passes.

Farmers in his area of central and east-central Illinois have planted a fair amount of corn and soybeans, he noted. "Soybeans planted around Easter are just starting to be up and out of the ground," Meece reported.

Some fields are "a brush away" -- meaning brush the dirt aside and the bean is almost ready to break the surface.

"That has me concerned, particularly where that hypocotyl or the neck of the bean is right at the soil surface. Those are tender and full of water. If they get frozen off, there's no opportunity for regenerative growth after that," he noted.

Those soybeans planted in the last few days will likely hang out and be just fine, Meece figured. "They are deep enough in the ground, and their first 24 hours provided maybe not a warm drink, but a least a warmer drink than they would get if planted over the next few days. It's those right at the soil surface that have me most concerned," he added.

University of Nebraska Extension educator Jenny Reese and agronomist Jim Specht recently posted a report that warned about imbibitional injury due to cold temperatures. Their recommendation: Consider planting soybeans if you think soil temperatures won't get cold (conservatively less than 50 degrees Fahrenheit) for at least 24 to 48 hours after planting. See the entire document here:….


Purdue University agronomist Bob Nielsen was also cautioning farmers to remember the whims of weather in a recent post. Soil temperatures, not merely air temperatures, matter when assessing current conditions, he observed.

And short-term temperature forecasts (six-10, eight-14 days) are critical when making decisions about planting in mid-April. The warmer the soils, the faster the emergence. Speed of seedling development, uniformity and health of the plants greatly influence the resilience of the young corn crop to other stresses, he wrote.

Read Nielsen's entire post here:….


There's no question waiting is hard, especially when everything but temperature signals go.

"It's been such a weird year already," Meece told DTN. "We're seeing a lot of what we call the 'neighbor effect' -- farmers say they will wait, but when they see someone else planting, they just can't hold off.

"But I don't see any advantage to putting more corn or soybeans in the ground in this area until soil temperatures warm," he added. "We're not going to accumulate many growing degree units. The only thing we gain is we maybe get a few more fields planted, and there's more risk versus reward, in my opinion."

For those who think free replant seed is the answer, Meece has a caution there too: "You always have to worry about getting the replacement seed you want," he said.

Meanwhile, he may not be able to throw coats on those shivering soybean seedlings sitting near the soil surface, but he hopes to learn something from their plight. He's installed a time-lapse camera to watch what happens in one soybean field.

And Meece was headed out to plant a few strips of corn and soybeans on Monday. "Just trying to learn by doing what I'm telling everyone not to do," he said.

Read Emily Unglesbee's story on how planting is progressing with DTN's Farmer Advisers:….

Here's a warning on what early crop pests might show up to be problematic:….

Some good agronomic tips for planting soybeans early in the season can be found here:….

Pamela Smith can be reached at

Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN

Pamela Smith

Pamela Smith
Connect with Pamela: