Tag Archives: cold soils

Will the cold weather harm my soybean this weekend?

The weather reports of near-freezing temperatures in some parts of Virginia has many concerned about their wheat, corn, emerged and non-emerged soybean. I’m one of them, but we must try to be optimistic about this threat.

My weather apps seem to indicate lows in the lower 30’s in some of most northern and western growing areas on Friday and Saturday nights. This is never good, especially in May. A frost may burn off some leaves if the air remains calm, but a slight breeze during the night can keep the air temperature surrounding the plants above freezing, and in-turn the soybean plant above freezing. And as long as the temperatures don’t drop below freezing for an extended period of time, I think that our soybean will be O.K.

Why do I say this? Usually, it will take air temperatures of 28 F or less to cause permanent damage. Why is this? First, the soil temperatures are warm, in the 50’s and 60’s and the soil will not warm as fast as the air. The air nearest to the soil won’t be as cold due to this; there will be a buffer area. Even if temperatures do get down to 31-32 F, plant cells will not freeze because they contain solutes, which lowers the freezing point of the tissues. For a more thorough explanation of freeze damage to soybean, I recommend this article on the University of Wisconsin’s Cool Bean website.

Just in case, we do have some soybean damage, Purdue University has an excellent article on the subject for corn and soybean, Symptoms of Low Temperature Injury to Corn and Soybean, which include some good photos of injury. The photos show likely seedling soybean survival and death examples. If our soybean have several leaves (V1-V2) and there are some out there, it’ll take very cold temperature to freeze the entire plant. Even if frost burns the leaves off, the growing points in the nodes of these leaves will likely survive and regenerate a new stem, leading to a bushier but healthy plant. But, we can worry about that next week.

The seed that are in the ground will survive. Again, the soil temperature will not drop dramatically with the cold weather. Still, soil temperatures in the 50’s is not warm. You’ll need a fungicide seed treatment protecting them. No seed treatment? We will have to wait and see. For more details, see my last article, Soybean Planting Tips for Cool Weather

Should you stop planting? We are not. I have a planter in the field today. But my seed are treated with a fungicide. But neither do you need to be in such a hurry. We generally don’t see a drastic yield decrease until planting is delayed after June.

Soybean Planting Tips for Cool Weather

It looks as if we have come out of the unusually warm pattern we experienced during late-March thru early-April and fallen back into a cooler one. I’ve watched unusually warm soil temperatures fall rapidly during that period. Although long-term weather forecasts are speculative, it appears that the next week or so will be cooler-than-average. Below are the GFS (U.S.) and European model predictions thru next Thursday. Although today (Thursday) is very warm (& wet), notice that both models are showing below-average temperatures.

Temperature anomaly predictions from 4/29 – 5/9, 2020. Screen captured 4/29.

These low temperatures are also predicted to persist thru mid-May, as shown below.

Temperature anomaly predictions from 4/29 – 5/14, 2020. Screen captured 4/29

Keep in mind that the predictability of these models are quite low past 1 week, so this could change substantially. Still, we are dealing with some relatively cool soils and that need to affect our planting decisions once things dry up.

When soils are cool, we must get the plants up and out of the ground as soon as possible. The longer a sprouted seed is in the ground, the more likely it will be infected with numerous seedling diseases. We must always strive for rapid emergence.

Before we get into too big of a hurry to plant, we must recognize that yields will not decrease drastically for over a month. Although the date when such a decline takes place will vary with the year, my data and experience indicates that this date will not occur to the first week of June. Depending on the number of acres you need to plant, you may not need to get in that big of a hurry. If the same 2-week pattern of cold then warm periods continue, I expect to see a warm-up and warmer soils by the second week of May.

If you must plant into cool soils, I suggest that you use fungicide-treated soybean seed. This will provide some protection if the seed does remain in the soil for an extended period. Below is a table that Dr. Hillary Mehl used this winter listing the effectiveness of several active ingredients with diseases that commonly occur in Virginia. Rhizoctonia and Fusarium have traditionally been our most troublesome. Pythium can also raise it’s head occasionally. Note that only one of these treatments listed are good on sudden death syndrome (SDS), but there is now at least one other product available . I caution that nematodes are often involved with SDS, so additional measures will likely be needed to fully manage that disease.

E=excellent; VG=very good; G=good; F=fair; P=poor; NR=not rated
1 Products may vary in efficacy against different Fusarium and Pythium species.
2 Areas with mefenoxam or metalaxyl insensitive populations may see less efficacy with these products.
3 Listed seed treatments do not have efficacy against Fusarium virguliforme, causal agent of sudden death syndrome

Finally, don’t plant the seed too deep. 3/4 to 1 inch deep is enough. Planting deeper will delay emergence.