How to Assess Early-Season Frost Injury in Corn

Wade Givens, Ph.D.

Apr 28, 2020

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With many farmers still feeling the effects of cold, wet weather, it has been a challenging spring for planting corn thus far across much of the U.S. Because the growing point of corn is below ground from planting all the way to V4 or V5, soil temperature and frost-free days are important guides for deciding when to plant corn.

How does early-season frost affect your corn crop?

Most farmers are quite familiar with above-ground frost damage, which can be observed in yellow leaves, a translucent grey appearance or some purple flash in the plant.

When the seed is below ground, however, one of the most common cold weather issues is imbibitional chilling injury. This happens when corn has been in the ground 24-36 hours and temperatures have been in the range of 41-50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Want to learn more about frost and the early growth stages of corn?

If you’ve experienced these conditions in your region post-planting and they’re followed by some wet weather, get in the field and see if you find seeds that have swollen and split. 

For corn seed that has germinated, this kind of injury can cause severe damage to the developing root while it’s trying to develop structure. You can also look at the monocotyl, as this frost injury can cause the leaf to unfurl under the soil and rot.

While patience is tough as we approach what feels like the end of the optimal corn planting window, wait three to five days, look for new growth, then check your corn by gently pulling the top leaves. If they come out easily, it’s a good indication that the growing point has died. This is the time to start considering possible stand loss and its impact on yield. 

When is the ideal time to plant corn?

We all know how hard it is to wait—especially in a year like this one, where everyone is ready to get going in their fields. Across much of the U.S., however, even corn planted in the May 8-9 range can still reach 95 to 98 percent of its full yield potential. 

There’s a lot of great information out there on planting date, stand loss due to frost and the impacts on yield, including this analysis from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. As an FBN member, you can also call or text (605) 223-4224 to chat with a member of our Agronomy team.

Take care of your pre-season and in-season management needs with FBN Direct®

You can’t control the weather. But for pest pressure and other needs that arise related to the health of your crop, there’s FBN Direct. Simply buy the crop protection products you need online and get them shipped directly to your farm—or schedule free pick-up at your local FBN Hub. It’s just one of many different ways we’re making farming better for farmers.


1. Do I Need to Replant My Corn?, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

2. Risk of Freeze Damage in Early-Planted, Emerged Corn, University of Nebraska-Lincoln 

3. Evaluating Hail Damage to Corn (Table 4, “Percent Yield Loss Due to Stand Reduction”), University of Nebraska-Lincoln  

4. Growing Point Location in Corn at Different Growth Stages, Purdue University

5. Frost Damage on Young Corn, University of Kentucky

6. How Planting Delays Affect Corn Productivity,  Mississippi State University Extension

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Wade Givens, Ph.D.

Apr 28, 2020

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