Minnesota farmers are checking their newly planted crops to be sure that last weekend’s cold temperatures did not damage young seedlings. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported Monday that 93 percent of the state’s corn crop was planted as of mid-May, 16 days ahead of the five-year average. The agency also estimated that 63 percent of the soybeans were in the ground, 11 days ahead of average.

USDA said that below normal temperatures throughout Minnesota last week slowed crop development and raised concerns about freeze damage in the northern and central parts of the state.

University of Minnesota Extension corn specialist Jeff Coulter said in his blog that there may be injury to plants, but frost during the earliest stages of growth typically does not kill corn because its growing point is about 0.75 inches below the soil surface and is somewhat protected.

Coulter said that producers should wait two or three days after a frost to see if their corn was killed, or only damaged. Often, he said, leaves damaged by frost will discolor and turn brown, but new leaf growth will appear a few days later if the corn’s growing point was not damaged.

In general, Coulter said, early-season frost injury tends to delay corn maturity by a few days in the fall, but is unlikely to affect yield very much.

Noah Hultgren, a corn farmer near Willmar, said much of the corn in his and nearby fields was planted in late April and is about two inches high. The leaves don’t look very healthy after the frost, he said, but the seedlings will probably recover.

“We’ve been scouting our ground today and I think we dodged a bullet,” Hultgren said on Monday.

“The corn doesn’t look the greatest, but we haven’t found any dead yet. But it might be a few days before we know for sure.”

The USDA estimates that most of the soybeans in the ground have been planted within the past two weeks, and that only 11 percent have emerged. Dave Pazdernik, director of research for the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, said it’s unclear so far whether any of those producers sustained damage.

Seth Naeve, Extension soybean specialist, said that the most vulnerable beans to injury are those that were planted in late April and have emerged, especially in southeastern Minnesota.

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