During the 2022 Christmas break, Alabama experienced a SEVERE cold snap.  What makes this event unusual is how fast temperatures dropped.  It went from t-shirt weather to sub-freezing overnight, and temperatures remained below freezing for several days.  As a result, forage species across the state exhibited varying amounts of cold damage.

Since the new year, there have been numerous calls, emails, texts, and discussions about the subsequent damage.  Auburn University forage variety trials were not exempt.

South Alabama

  • Ryegrass at the Gulf Coast Research and Extension Center (GCREC) in Fairhope received minimal damage.
  • Forage trials at the Wiregrass Research and Extension Center (WREC) in Headland also received minimal damage and the first harvest of the season was last week.

North Alabama

  • Oats and ryegrass at the Sand Mountain Research and Extension Center (SMREC) are a complete loss.   Wheat, triticale, and cereal rye were damaged but appear to be recovering.

Central Alabama

  • Forages at the EV Smith Research Center (EVSRC) in Tallassee were planted later because this location had to be replanted.  No significant damage was noted at EVSRC.
  • All forage species (wheat, triticale, rye, oats, and ryegrass) at the Chilton Research and Extension Center (CREC) in Clanton received significant measurable damage.

Visual ratings were taken at CREC.  Species and varietal differences were noted.  In addition, ratings were taken using a drone.  The visual and drone ratings were correlated; however, the drone ratings generally had less variation.  In some instances, it seems that the visual ratings underestimated the amount of damage.

Before and after images taken by Josh Elmore, Regional Extension Agent, document the severity of the damage.  Although the situation seemed dire on January 3 when these photos were taken, many plots are making a recovery.  The cold damage may have postponed the first harvest, but harvest data are anticipated.

Weather data from the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Stations (AAES) can be viewed online by creating a free login on the new AAES weather database.