What an unusual winter – warmer than most; not much snow cover. Our perennial forage plants have experienced the same conditions.
Perennial forages respond to the cooling days of autumn and “cold harden” to their genetic winter hardiness limits. As long as temperatures in the crown area, or upper few inches of the soil, remain between near 0 degrees F and 35 degrees F the plants remain dormant. Snow cover and residual vegetative cover help to insulate the soil and stabilize soil and crown temperatures. Under ideal conditions, as spring temperatures warm through March, the plants break dormancy and regrow normally into the spring. Winter injury and winter kill can occur if crown temperatures go much below 0 degrees F, and when mid-winter warm spells cause the plants to break dormancy early and become more susceptible to late-winter cold crown temperatures. Freezing of ponded water in low-laying areas frequently causes localized spots of winterkill in fields.
Iowa State University
Barnhart, Stephen K., "Evaluate Forage Stands for Winter Injury" (2012). Integrated Crop Management News. 162.
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