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Weekend frost nips some farm fields

WILLMAR--Two days of early morning frost over the weekend in west central Minnesota may cause problems for early planted crops. Reports of damage vary in the region--and it will take another day or two to determine what the true impact will be--b...

Frost damage
Jarez Anez of Anez Consulting in Willmar saw frost-damaged corn during a crop assessment on a field south of Danube in Renville County. (SUBMITTED)

WILLMAR-Two days of early morning frost over the weekend in west central Minnesota may cause problems for early planted crops.

Reports of damage vary in the region-and it will take another day or two to determine what the true impact will be-but so far it looks like most crops escaped serious harm.

Some crops, however, may have to be replanted.

"The moral of the story is we really need to give it a few days and see how crops responds to warmer weather," said Kevin Beekman, director of the Farm Service Agency in Renville and Redwood counties. "We really won't know for a few days."

Crop consultants and insurance agents were busy doing field assessments Monday.

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Jared Anez, from Anez Consulting in Willmar, said he saw some crop damage "everywhere" in southern Kandiyohi County and Renville County.

During a telephone interview while he was evaluating a corn field south of Danube, Anez said he saw plants that were "brown and mushy" next to some that had just light frost damage on leaves and some that had no damage at all.

So far, he had not seen corn plants killed by the frost.

"You can see the damage, but it's too early to tell if we have to replant or not," he said.

"In a couple days we'll know how many plants will survive the stress of growing new leaf tissue," Anez said. "If you can get it to survive, you really shouldn't have any crop loss."

Young sugar beet plants are typically sensitive to frost, but Kelvin Thompsen, president and CEO of the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative in Renville, said it appears sugar beet farmers "dodged a bullet" this time with minimal damage.

Thompsen said of the 119,000 acres of sugar beets planted for the cooperative, 100,000 acres were planted with a cover crop of oats.

The typical environmental benefit of a cover crop is to reduce wind and rain erosion, but Thompsen said the oats may have also provided some cover from the frost.

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"In this case the cover crop really helped us out in protecting the seedlings," he said.

Although fields are still being assessed, Thompsen said the sugar beets are in "very good shape" and the "entire acreage base appears to be OK at this point."

It could be a different story for soybean growers. Depending on how much of the soybean plant was emerged from the soil during the freeze, beans could either be fine or could be dead and in need of replanting.

Beans are typically the last crop to be planted and if they haven't emerged yet, they will be fine, Beekman said.

But soybeans that have emerged could be in trouble, he said.

Anez said he had not seen any beans out of the ground yet, but because the seed comes out of the soil with the first couple leaves, beans that were up before the frost are a "done deal" now and may have to be replanted.

The top leaves of the alfalfa crop may have also been killed by the frost.

Because the crop is so advanced for this time of year, Wes Nelson, director of the Farm Service Agency in Kandiyohi County, said some farmers are being advised to take a first crop hay cutting now and "get as much as you can."

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With the forecast calling for sunny skies and highs in the 70s, Nelson said it will be a good week to make hay.

Carolyn Lange is a features writer at the West Central Tribune. She can be reached at clange@wctrib.com or 320-894-9750
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