As the weather warms back up in parts of the Upper Midwest, growers are taking a close look at fields for signs of permanent damage from the recent cold weather. Prior to the cold snap, alfalfa growth had ranged from 4 to 8" in southern Michigan, which left fields vulnerable when the freeze hit. "The stands I have looked at in southern Michigan show much of the earlier alfalfa leaflets were frozen and turned black or already drying out," says Richard Leep, Michigan State University extension forage crop specialist. "However, the terminal buds don't seem to have been injured. New growth is coming out of the terminal buds on plants that were frozen." There had been little alfalfa growth in northern Michigan, so the cold weather did little damage there.

The weather wasn't warm enough until late last week to really get a handle on damage in Wisconsin, according to Mike Rankin, University of Wisconsin crops and soils agent in Fond du Lac County. "Most of our alfalfa is 4-5" high so some of the very top taller stems have been nipped a little bit, but anything below 3" still looked pretty good as of the beginning of the week," he states. "I think the assessment would be that it probably has gotten cold enough to set things back, but how much and to what extent we'll need a few more days to determine." Rankin advises producers in his area to watch fields over the next week to monitor new growth and assess possible damage.

Contact Leep at 269-671-2323, or Rankin at 920-929-3171.

For a report on the freeze situation in Minnesota, click on