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Early freeze puts a damper on farmer expectations

Early freeze puts a damper on farmer expectations
Dry edible bean field after the freeze on Sept. 10, in the Scottsbluff Valley. KNEB/RRN/Guzman

A freeze blanketed western Nebraska and eastern Wyoming on the morning of Sept. 10, as temperatures dipped into the 20s. 

The cold front was an early one for this time of year and shut down crops, which still had time left to mature.

“For sure, it’s the earliest we’ve ever seen for our frost, Sept. 10 is not in the playbook when we’re trying to put things together to start the year,” said Chris Cook, a corn farmer in Lingle, Wyo.

Cook said his father has been farming since he was young and said this is the earliest he had ever seen it freeze. 

The freeze stopped the growth of the cornstalks, which were still maturing.

“We’ll be able to use it (corn), and typically it’ll take a little longer to dry down due to the fact it didn’t mature,” said Mike Rowan, president and CEO of Crossroads Coop in Sidney.

Farmers plant both dryland and irrigated corn in the panhandle and eastern Wyoming. Rowan said the yield for irrigated might be affected more than the dryland. Since the summer was so hot and dry, he doesn’t think the frost will have much effect on the dryland yield.

Another crop to be impacted by the freeze was the dry edible beans. Farmers were out on the weekend, pushing hard to get the beans, which were ready out of the fields. The remaining crop, hit by the freeze, will see the green matter of the plants die off.

“There is some freezing on the pods, but the bean itself is in pretty good condition,” said Dan Smith, agronomist for Kelley Bean.

Outside of the Scottsbluff valley, there were places, which did get a bit colder, and west of Alliance, there was damage on the bean. Most of the crop was far enough along and should be okay. 

Plus, if the beans only had a little bit of frost on them, they may come out of it, and there could be some veining on the bean.  

“The ones that were seriously frozen at this point, they are really mushy,” Smith said. “So, you really need those to dry down before you harvest.”

The dry bean yield shouldn’t be hurt, but the beans planted later or after the hail will be smaller. The temperatures will be back in the 80s and 90s next week, according to the National Weather Service in Cheyenne, Wyo., giving the bean and corn crops a chance to dry out.

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