GRDC ramps up RD&E offensive against frost

Author: Natalie Lee | Date: 09 Sep 2013

Peter Roberts and Ben Biddulph

GRDC western regional panel chairman Peter Roberts, left, and DAFWA researcher Ben Biddulph inspect crops for frost damage in 2012.

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 western regional panel chairman Peter Roberts said the increased investment acknowledged the significant yield losses caused by frost in Australia, particularly in western and southern cropping regions.

“Frost costs the national grains industry more than an estimated $360 million on average each year and research has confirmed that the ‘frost window’ is ending later in the season in many areas, increasing growers’ exposure to frost risk,” he said.

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Mr Roberts said GRDC-supported frost research in recent years had 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.

“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 the Department of Agriculture and Food WA (DAFWA), the University of Adelaide 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.
Mr Roberts said a significant proportion of the research activities would be led from Western Australia.

“Frost is the number one priority issue that WA growers continue to raise with the GRDC, and frost RD&E remains a high priority for the GRDC and the western panel,” he said.

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

Mr Roberts said that in addition to the large-scale GRDC investments, smaller ‘proof of concept’ research projects were underway in WA, supported by the GRDC and its Regional Cropping Solutions Networks.

“These projects include the use of chemicals to increase frost hardiness in wheat; remote sensing of frost-induced stress in wheat paddocks; frost mitigation by grazing crops; stubble management to reduce the impact of frost’; and the use of copper and potassium for improved frost tolerance,” he said.

Mr Roberts 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, 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

Contact Details

For Interviews

Peter Roberts, chairman, GRDC western regional
0428 389 060
kpeterroberts@gmail.com

Contact

Natalie Lee, Cox Inall Communications
08 9864 2034, 0427 189 827
nataliel@coxinall.com.au

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

Region West, National, North, South