Growers guiding frost research agenda

Author: Sharon Watt | Date: 26 Nov 2015

National Frost Initiative steering committee

Grain growers from across Australia are playing an influential role in shaping the research direction for the Grains Research and Development Corporation’s National Frost Initiative (NFI).

Six growers from the southern, western and northern cropping regions have been appointed to the NFI’s steering committee which also comprises consultants and scientists. With years of experience managing frost in their own farming environments, the growers bring a comprehensive range of advice and support to the NFI, which is a multi-disciplinary program to mitigate the effects of frost.

GRDC General Manager of Genetic Technologies, Juan Juttner, says grower engagement is pivotal to ensuring the NFI’s research focus remains relevant and aligned with grower needs.

“By having grower representation on the NFI steering committee, we know the frost-related issues confronting our grain producers are being captured and that the GRDC’s investment in research, development and extension is addressing key concerns with practical outcomes,” Dr Juttner said.

The steering committee’s second meeting was held in South Australia where members met with growers in frost-prone areas. They also inspected the GRDC-funded frost screening nursery in Loxton.

The nursery is one of three trial sites (also Wickepin in WA and Narrabri in NSW) where current wheat and barley varieties are being benchmarked for sterility at flowering under frost conditions.

Assessment of the frost susceptibility of wheat and barley varieties is being carried out under the collaborative Australian National Frost Program (ANFP) which is a key component of the GRDC’s NFI.

The three-pronged initiative is committed to the following approaches:

  • Genetics – aiming to develop more frost-tolerant varieties
  • Management – investigating if there are preventive products, stubble and nutrition management practices or other measures that growers could implement to reduce the impact of frost
  • Environmental prediction – focusing on predicting the impact of frost events on crop yields and mapping frost events at the farm scale to enable better risk management.

Bugle Hut growers Steve and Lisa Nitschke, who met with the NFI steering committee, have welcomed the GRDC’s continued investment in frost-related research.

The Nitschkes’ property, east of Loxton, was hit hard by multiple stem frosts in 2014, and head frosts this season were also expected to have an impact on local yields.

Mr Nitschke told NFI steering committee members that while frost was not their main decision-making driver (heat is their prime concern), he welcomes any research advances that could help reduce costs and yield losses associated with frost.

The NFI steering committee comprises: Peter Roberts (committee chairman), GRDC Western Regional Panel chair and grain grower, Dunn Rock, WA; Gary Lang, Facey Group, Wickepin, WA; Craig Brown, Synergy Consulting, Perth, WA; Allan Mayfield, Allan Mayfield Consulting, Clare, SA; Tanja Morgan, grain grower, Jabuk, SA; Dr Neil Fettell, GRDC Northern Regional Panel member and agricultural research consultant, Condobolin, NSW; Emma Robinson, grain grower, ‘Westbury Pastoral’, Temora, NSW; Rob Taylor, grain grower, Grenfell, NSW; David Brownhill, grain grower, Spring Hill, near Quirindi, NSW; Dr John Kirkegaard, CSIRO Agriculture, Canberra, ACT; Peter Taylor, grain grower, Lubeck, Victoria; John Sheppard, plant breeder, Iredale, Queensland; Dr Francis Ogbonnaya, GRDC General Manager Capacity and National Programs.

Information about the GRDC National Frost Initiative is available in the Ground Cover Frost Supplement and at

For Interviews

Juan Juttner, GRDC
02 6166 4500

Sharon Watt, Porter Novelli
0409 675100

Caption: Caption: Inspecting crops on the Bugle Hut property of Steve and Lisa Nitschke during the NFI steering committee’s visit are Elders Loxton agronomist Brian Lynch (left); committee members Gary Lang, Wickepin, WA, and Peter Taylor, Lubek, Victoria; Lisa and Steve Nitschke; and committee members Tanja Morgan, Jabuk, SA, and Rob Taylor, Grenfell, NSW.

Region South