GRDC ups the ante in search for frost tolerant crops

Author: Michael Thomson | Date: 11 Oct 2013

The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) will more than double its national investment into frost research, development and extension (RD&E) over the next five years.  

Its annual investment in frost RD&E will increase from about $1.2-1.3 million annually, to more than $3 million, from July, 2014.

GRDC northern regional panel chairman James Clark said the increased investment would be welcomed by grain growers everywhere from the NSW Central West right through to Central Queensland, whose crops were recently hit hard by late-season frosts.

“As frosts are often sudden and are difficult to forecast, they can be more financially and emotionally devastating than other cropping constraints such as drought as there is less opportunity to plan ahead and reduce input costs to minimise losses,” Mr Clark said.

“In the northern cropping region, direct losses from frost have been estimated to be $50-$100M per annum and frost costs the national grains industry more than an estimated $360 million on average each year.

“There is also data to suggest that the opportunity cost associated with frost risk management, particularly delayed sowing, may result in yield potential losses 2-3 fold higher than direct losses.

“We are responding to grower feedback by investing significant and ongoing funding into both genetics-based and farming systems frost research.”

Frosts are most devastating in spring when cereals are at susceptible post-booting stages of development, with damage occurring to the plant reproductive structures.

Research has confirmed that in many areas the ‘frost window’ is ending later in the season, increasing growers’ exposure to frost risk.

GRDC supported frost research in recent years has aimed to develop ‘frost phenotyping’ methodology allowing researchers to accurately measure and quantify the effect of frost on varieties in the field, regardless of environmental conditions.

“Progress made in developing this essential methodology means the GRDC is now able to increase its focus on other areas,” he said.

“The new frost research to be supported by the GRDC will have three components – genetics, management and environmental.

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

“The management component of the new frost investments will focus on farming systems, 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 Queensland’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, the Department of Agriculture and Food WA (DAFWA), and the University of Adelaide.

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.

Mr Clark said that the GRDC had 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 forecasting capacity,” he said.

For information on frost damage and what steps to take when it occurs, see the GRDC’s Back Pocket Guides, and A GRDC Managing Frost Risk booklet is also available for download via 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


Contact details

For Interviews

James Clark, chairman GRDC northern regional panel
0417 545 212   


Michael Thomson
Senior Consultant, Cox Inall Communications
07 4927 0805

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

Region North, National, South, West