New frost investments planned by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) give growers more hope for the future – in the short term and potentially the long-term.
As a grower at Quairading in Western Australia’s central grainbelt, I’m aware of the potentially severe financial implications of frost.
From July, 2014, the GRDC’s annual investment in frost research, development and extension (RD&E) will increase from $1.2-1.3 million annually, to more than $3 million.
Work will focus on three areas - genetics, management (or farming systems) and environment.
This new frost offensive follows the development of essential ‘frost phenotyping’ methodology, allowing researchers to accurately measure and quantify the effect of frost on varieties in the field, regardless of environmental conditions.
This means the GRDC can increase its focus on other areas of frost research.
The GRDC will fund farming systems research projects to evaluate and test the many theories and observations made by farmers and their advisers.
These projects will be scoped up by the GRDC, although in the meantime some farming systems research is already happening in WA through the GRDC’s Regional Cropping Solutions Networks (RCSNs).
This new farming systems research is really important for growers and could deliver benefits within the next three years.
We need to know if there are preventative products, stubble management practices or other measures which could reduce the impact of frost and aid our agronomic decision making.
We also need to know about any adverse effects from these measures – such as nutrient imbalances.
Longer term benefits to growers are expected to result from ongoing genetics research.
The new Focused Identification of Germplasm Strategy (FIGS) project will see cereal germplasm imported from all over the world to investigate whether there is any way to improve frost tolerance in cereals.
This is on top of the current phenotyping project that key frost researcher - Ben Biddulph, of the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) - has been undertaking for years, studying the difference between frost tolerance levels in cereals.
Dr Biddulph is one of the key researchers involved in ongoing work under the collaborative Australian National Frost Program.
It is vital that testing for any genetic traits is done efficiently using proven phenotyping methods.
Under the third component of the GRDC’s new frost initiative – investigating environmental factors influencing frost – the temperature in paddocks will be measured on a small plot basis and to within 1 degree of accuracy, so that soils can
be mapped for differences.
Although growers already know which are the most frost prone areas on their farms, this more detailed information will be great for long term planning, aiding decisions on future farm purchases or lease opportunities.
It will also assist in short term planning such as the application of any new preventative products, ahead of forecasted frosts, and hay cutting decisions immediately after frost events.
The GRDC has invested more than $13.5 million into frost-specific projects since 2000.
A further $43.3 million has been invested into projects aimed at delivering data and tools needed by growers to manage the impact of frost, such as variety specific agronomic information, online sowing time tools and improved long-range frost
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 in hard copy at $10 plus postage and handling from Ground Cover Direct, free phone 1800 11 00 44 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
PHOTO CAPTION: Shauna Stone
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