U of I Extension Educator Friend discusses first frost’s impact on crops

By Gary Scott on October 16, 2018 at 10:45am

West central Illinois experienced its first fall frost of the year and many are wondering how that frost might impact crops that remain in the field.

With the National Weather Service leaving a freeze warning in effect for folks from the Wisconsin border to south of Taylorville to start the day, many area farmers are experiencing their first frost of the harvest season.

While some forecasters are saying that farmers could potentially lose some of the crops that have yet to be harvested, local experts at the University of Illinois Extension Office think the chances of losing crops is less likely. Environmental and Energy Stewardship Educator with the University of Illinois Extension Duane Friend says most of the crops are beyond the point of being harmed by an early frost.

“The vast majority of crops are well past the point where they would be harmed by any kind of early frost, and the one thing that a few folks may have, not so much right around here in Morgan County but in some other areas where maybe there was some double crop soybeans where it was put in after wheat, but even those should be pretty far along at this point. I would say, overall, in terms of crop damage, there really shouldn’t be any significant crop damage to speak of,” says Friend.

In fact, Friend says that, when looking at the numbers, west central Illinois is right on pace for when the first fall frost typically arrives.

“When we look at our average date for frost, we’re probably only a few days ahead of when that usual average date is for a frost around here. So we’re really not all that far ahead of schedule, so it’s not really something that abnormal. For this area, that average frost date has moved back over the last thirty years or so. It’s probably more around October 20th, so we’re kind of right in that average range for when we can have it. Now there have been some situations where we haven’t gotten a frost until the end of October or beginning of November, but that’s sort of out of the normal as well,” Friend says.

Friend wants to remind farmers not to jump the gun when it comes to implementing things like anhydrous.

“Hopefully we don’t get some folks who are really itchy to get out and do other stuff like put on anhydrous ammonia. We also need to wait until that soil temperature gets down before 50 degrees and stays there pretty much consistently before we put on the anhydrous. Because otherwise, the microbes in the soil will start working on it and, you end up essentially wasting your money,”

Here at WLDS/WEAI, our overnight low reached below freezing for the first time this fall season, coming in at 31 degrees.