Grains Research and Development

Date: 25.10.2013

GRDC turns up the heat on frost research

Author: Sharon Watt
Frost damage

Crop damage caused by recent frosts in various parts of the southern cropping region has underlined the importance of the Grains Research and Development Corporation’s (GRDC) increased commitment to frost-related research programs.

The GRDC is more than doubling its annual investment in frost research, development and extension activities over the next five years.

GRDC Southern Regional Panel chair Keith Pengilley says from July next year, the GRDC will increase its investment in frost RD&E from about $1.2-1.3 million to more than $3 million a year.

“Each year, we hear of crops in the southern region being damaged by frost, and this season has been no exception,” Mr Pengilley said.

“The GRDC recognises the significant losses of yield and income that frost can cause growers which is why we are injecting more funding into targeted research to address the issue.”

Mr Pengilley said frost was a difficult constraint to research. Frost events can be unpredictable and their impact can vary depending on the nature of the frost and the stage of crop growth.

Research also indicates that the incidence of frosts across Australia has increased and more frost events are occurring later in the year, costing the national grains industry more than an estimated $360 million on average each year.

While cultural practices such as delayed time of sowing can reduce the risk of frost damage, yield potential losses caused by such frost avoidance strategies can be sizeable, and this needs to be factored into growers’ time of sowing considerations, according to Mr Pengilley.

GRDC is embarking on new frost-related RD&E investments, in addition to an existing stable of frost research projects. New research programs will have three components – genetics, management and environmental.

A key component of the genetics research will be the Focused Identification of Germplasm Strategy (FIGS) which will involve cereal germplasm being imported from all over the world and tested for its frost tolerance.

Farming systems will be the focus of the management component of the new frost investments, and measures to be investigated include the effects of stubble, grazing, nutrition and the use of plant growth regulators to manipulate flowering times. Research into environmental factors influencing frost will aim to understand landscape features that influence the severity of frost.

Primary research organisations which will lead the frost research include the University of Adelaide, the Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia, and the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

The collaborative Australian National Frost Program (ANFP) will continue working on the production of frost rankings for wheat and barley varieties, investigate pre-emptive measures for growers and continue research into developing frost-tolerant varieties.

In the meantime, Mr Pengilley says growers in the southern cropping region are advised to check their crops for damage immediately, as delay will limit their options to reduce financial losses from frost damage.

“There are a range of options that growers can use to reduce financial losses with frost-affected crops,” he said.

“Options include cutting for hay, grazing, direct heading canola rather than windrowing, reducing yield estimates for crop insurance, and reducing exposure to forward sales of grains.”

For information on frost damage and what steps to take when it occurs, see the GRDC’s Back Pocket Guides, www.grdc.com.au/GRDC-BPG-FrostCereals and www.grdc.com.au/GRDC-BPG-FrostPulses. A GRDC Managing Frost Risk booklet is also available for download via www.grdc.com.au/GRDC-Booklet-ManagingFrostRisk or for purchase of a hard copy at $10 plus postage and handling from Ground Cover Direct, free phone 1800 11 00 44 or email ground-cover-direct@canprint.com.au.

ENDS

Caption: Frost events can be unpredictable and their impact can vary depending on the nature of the frost and the stage of crop growth. Photo by Ben Biddulph.

For Interviews

Keith Pengilley, GRDC Southern Panel chair
0448 015539

Contact

Sharon Watt, Porter Novelli
0409 675100

GRDC Project Code DAW00162, CSP00143, UA00114, UA00063, UA00100

Region South, National, North, West