Assessing and Response to Freeze/Frost Injured Corn

April 7, 2021

As many of you know, temperatures across the state did drop below freezing last Thursday and Friday nights. I have heard some reports of temperatures dropping to 28 F or below in specific areas that had corn planted. Since we have had 5-7 days since the freezing weather, we should now be able to assess corn stands and mortality if any occurred. I have been across the Pee Dee and Lower Savannah Valley this week, what corn I have seen up does have some injury to the leaves but appears to be recovering, thus not warranting a replant.

At this point in time, if you are assessing fields with freeze-damaged corn you should be able to tell if the corn will recover. This would mean you would be seeing new green growth in the whorl of the young plants. If you are not seeing new green growth in the whorls by this point (5-7 days after the freezing temperatures) then the plants may be dead, and replanting may be a good option.

Based on data I have reviewed from other universities, if corn is recovering, we should not see any yield losses associated with the freeze injury experienced to the young plants. If there is a particular field or area that experienced lower temperatures and plant death occurred, I would encourage you to scout the entire field and evaluate the surviving stands to determine if a total replant of the field is needed or spot replanting could be done.

I have had questions about whether we should apply irrigation to young, injured corn. My recommendation is to apply irrigation only on an as need basis (For example, the soil profile and rooting zone are extremely dry, and plants are stressing, or extreme sandblasting of corn is occurring). At this growth stage, corn water use demand is very low (0.03 to 0.09 inches of water per day).

Below is a picture I took of a corn plant from Edisto REC showing injury, but a recovering whorl.

Frost Damaged Corn

Image Credit: Clemson University