Grains Research and Development

Date: 01.04.2002

The frost report: don't lose your nerve at seeding by Guy Cotsell

Frost free paddocks

DELAYING SEEDING to avoid frost can cause big losses: estimated at about double what the frost itself would cause in an average year. Missing early seeding opportunities can incur an opportunity cost of $53/ha.

These are some of the findings from a study undertaken by WA consultants ConsultAg following a GRDC workshop held in response to the devastating frosts in WA during 1998 and 1999. The study found that WA farmers suffered yield losses of $1,000--$4,400 in an average season.

Many wheat belt farmers in medium to low-rainfall areas have moved out of livestock into more intensive cropping. This move, together with a narrower sowing window, increased hectares sown and improved yield potentials, leaves them more exposed to severe frosts than ever before.

The study recommended that research focus on the more common l-in-5 to l-in-10-year frost events. It suggested a mix of breeding and agronomic research, changing farmer practices and predicting high frost-prone areas and events through climatic and landscape analysis.

A Richter scale for frosts

ConsultAg suggested a frost rating system with a rating scale taking into account minimum temperatures, susceptibility of crop, duration below zero and regional and landscape impacts - a system similar to earthquake or cyclone rating which could be used in conjunction with prediction models.

Program 4 Contact: Mr Garren Knell 08 9881 5551 email gk@consultag.com.au

Region National, North, South, West