Southwest New York Dairy, Livestock, and Field Crops Specialist Josh Putman, shares information about seed imbibition for farmers, which can cause cold damage seen here. Photo by DuPont Pioneer.

SWNYDLFC Specialist Josh Putman shares information about seed imbibition for farmers.


SOUTHWEST, NEW YORK (April 26, 2021) – The Southwest New York Dairy, Livestock, and Field Crops Program monitors regional soil temperatures to help our crop farmers. Seeds can be damaged by planting too early, so choosing the best planting date is an important decision for farmers. Soils warmed up quickly over the past few weeks, but have dwindled due to cold temperatures, rain, and snow. Farmers should consider their soil’s temperature rather than the calendar date before planting. Delays could last into early May.

Cold temperatures cause injury to a germinating seed as it absorbs moisture. This is a problem called imbibitional chilling injury. Damage occurs when soil temperatures remain at, or below, 50 degrees F after planting. Soil temperatures during the first 24-72 hours after planting are critical. It is during this window that seeds take in water and begin the germination process. Seeds naturally swell when hydrating. If the cell tissues of the seed are too cold, they become less elastic and may rupture during the swelling process, resulting in “leaky” cells.

Imbibitional chilling can result in a swollen seed that will fail to germinate. Growers may also notice aborted sprout growth after germination has started. Chilling injury can also occur as seedlings begin to emerge. This can cause stunting or death of plant roots, abnormality of the plant, lack of emergence, or leaf burn.

Chilled seedlings may also be more sensitive to herbicide applications and seedling diseases. Producers should consider all of these factors when deciding on the planting time. Farmers are able to monitor their own soil temperatures by purchasing a soil thermometer. More information about the planting status of summer row crops, soil temperatures, and our specialists can be found online at and Article information provided by Jodi Putman of the Northwest NY Dairy, Livestock and Field Crops Program.

SWNYDLFC is a partnership between Cornell University and the CCE Associations of Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, and Steuben counties. Their team includes Katelyn Walley-Stoll, Farm Business Management (716-640-0522); Joshua Putman, Field Crops (716-490-5572); Alycia Drwencke, Dairy Management (517-416-0386) and Amy Barkley, Livestock Management (716-640-0844). CCE is an employer and educator recognized for valuing AA/EEO, Protected Veterans, and Individuals with Disabilities and provides equal program and employment opportunities.

For more information about Cornell Cooperative Extension, contact your county’s Association Executive Director. Allegany County – Laura Hunsberger, or 585-268-7644. Cattaraugus County – Dick Rivers, or 716-699-2377. Chautauqua County – Emily Reynolds, or 716-664-9502. Erie County – Diane Held, or 716-652-5400. Steuben County – Tess McKinley,, or 607-664-2301. 

Last updated April 26, 2021