Managing the costs of frost
The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) has issued a timely reminder to northern grain growers not to become complacent about frost management strategies this winter cropping season.
While most of the New South Wales and Queensland production belt avoided large scale yield losses from frost in 2014, growers should have frost mitigation strategies in place in case it is a different story this season according to GRDC northern regional grower services manager Sharon O’Keeffe.
“Pre-sowing is the optimum time to develop some key management strategies to help reduce the risk of costly and devastating losses from frost damage,” Ms O’Keeffe said.
“Zoning the farm based on frost risk associated with experience from past seasons and managing the mix of enterprises, inputs and crop types according to the frost risk is an excellent strategy to reduce the overall farm business financial risk of frost damage.”
A number of sensors are available to growers wishing to take in-field temperature readings during the season including ibuttons, available from Alfa tek in Australia and tiny tags, available from Hastings Data Loggers.
As a general rule, sensors should be placed at flag leaf canopy height and placed up and down slopes at a 200m transect.
While a 15 minute frequency gives three months of data - which is more than adequate for the main spring frost season when installed in early August – hourly data will be sufficient for most growers’ needs.
Frost is estimated to cost the Australian grains industry more than $360 million annually in yield loss and reducing the financial impact of frost through improved genetics, management and environmental prediction is a priority investment for the GRDC.
Since 1999, the GRDC has invested around $13.5 million in more than 60 frost-related projects and in 2014, increased its investment in frost research to establish the National Frost Initiative.
The National Frost Initiative is a five year project that aims to deliver growers genetic and management solutions in combination with tools and information to better predict frost events.
Ms O’Keeffe said frosts were high consequence, low frequency events, which made them very difficult to understand, predict and manage.
“Growers should never become complacent and should be constantly upgrading their tool box for frost mitigation tools and management strategies,” Ms O’Keeffe said.
“This could be anything from cropping according to the elevation of paddocks, choosing the right varieties, or different crop types to time of sowing, which is an important tool in avoiding frost.”
Sharon O’Keeffe, GRDC northern regional grower services manager
0409 279 328
Sarah Jeffrey, Senior Consultant, Cox Inall Communications
08 9864 2034, 0427 189 827
GRDC Project Code UA00136; DAW00241; DAW00234; TAR00004