Frost publication addresses hot research topic

Author: Natalie Lee | Date: 20 Mar 2014

Frosted wheat

New frost research will look at the possibility of using remote sensing technology to detect frost damage in wheat and the likelihood of these damaged crops going on to yield sufficient grain.

Another ‘proof of concept’ project will investigate the use of chemical compounds to protect flowering wheat from spring frost damage, which can cost Western Australian growers tens of millions of dollars in some seasons.

The work is among a range of new and ongoing projects funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), which has increased its annual frost investment to $3 million.

GRDC western regional panel chairman Peter Roberts said details of various research projects were included in a GRDC Ground Cover Frost Supplement.

“New investments, identified by the GRDC’s Regional Cropping Solutions Networks (RCSNs), will focus on finding genetic and management solutions to frost, which is the western panel’s number one research priority and is increasingly an issue in other cropping regions of Australia,” he said.

“The genetic research component of the GRDC frost initiative aims to deliver wheat frost resistance at least equivalent to that of the most frost tolerant Australian barley varieties, but like all pre-breeding programs this will take considerable time.

“In the shorter term, research is underway to evaluate management practices that can be used to either avoid or lessen the impact of frost.

“A range of pre-crop and in-crop management practices are being investigated.”

Mr Roberts said the remote sensing proof of concept research could potentially help growers decide how much of a frosted crop to cut for hay or grain.

“The goal is to combine biomass and yield estimates via satellite or aerial imagery with a measure of frost damage collected via grower records and yield mapping data,” he said.

“Using this information, researchers will attempt to calculate a frost-induced yield map.”

Mr Roberts said that while this research was preliminary, projects testing other management practices had produced promising results.

“GRDC RCSN trials in the WA grainbelt in 2012 and 2013 indicate that high stubble loads can increase the severity and duration of frost events,” he said.

“The trials, supervised by Living Farm and assisted by the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA), show that stubble appears to insulate the soil surface, which lowers the amount of heat absorbed into the soil compared with paddocks without stubble.

“Researchers also believe that less heat is radiated from the soil in stubble paddocks at night, which lowers the canopy temperature and leads to greater frost severity, duration and damage.

“In a 2012 trial at Wickepin, WA, with the Facey Group, yields of Mace wheat were 0.7 tonnes per hectare higher in burnt stubble high in the landscape (where there was moderate frost risk) and 0.3t/ha higher in burnt stubble lower in the landscape where the frost risk is higher.

“Research planned for 2014 will further investigate the impact of stubble load on frost damage with the aim of developing stubble management guidelines for frost-prone areas.”

The frost supplement is contained in the March-April edition of the GRDC magazine Ground Cover and can be downloaded at

To subscribe to Ground Cover visit

WA farmers can also obtain information about frost research and management tools by attending the current series of GRDC Pre-Seeding Frost workshops.

The remaining workshops are scheduled for Lake King and Hyden on March 25; and Narembeen and Doodlakine on March 26.

To register, contact Alison Bailey at ConsultAg on (08) 6253 2000 or

For Interviews

GRDC western panel chairman Peter Roberts
0428 389 060

GRDC Project Code DAW00234, SDI00019

Region West, National, North, South