Early Frost Bites into Corn Crop in Eastern Ontario


The Ontario corn crop’s “slow stagger to maturity” wasn’t helped any last night by an early frost.

Lows of -2 degrees C and colder were reported across a large swath of eastern Ontario this morning, though official temps and final area impacted by the frost has yet to be released. (See map below from Weather Innovations Network)

Corn not yet at half milk line will be hardest hit by the frost, says Ken Currah, market development agronomist with PRIDE Seeds. After a late start to the 2014 planting season and a cool summer, many corn acres fall in to this category, unfortunately.

“The extent of the frost damage will become more apparent over the next 48 hours,” says Currah. The top leaves of the plant are most important for grain fill — the part of the plant likely most impacted by a light frost. Stalks may not have been affected, which means this isn’t a true killing frost and grain fill will continue.

While yield loss is tough to peg at this point, “frost can greatly impact stalk integrity,” says Currah, meaning that the true fallout of this frost may extend far beyond a yield hit. Currah notes that the impending harvest struggles and quality challenges following an early frost may be the biggest hurdle ahead. Frost-affected, immature corn results in lighter test weights, yes, but also reduces kernel integrity, leading to cracked kernels and fines, leading to storage quality challenges in the marketing year ahead.

Silage corn has also struggled with the cool temps, though some farmers have had to kick silaging into high gear early simply because they’re short on feed. Too high moisture content when harvesting early can cause ensiling issues, but, on the flip side, frost-damaged corn could lose moisture very quickly, meaning farmers may need to get out there earlier than planned to preserve as much tonnage as possible.



Related: OMAFRA’s table on estimated yield loss for early frosts on corn

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