Diverse expertise harnessed in frost fight
Author: Peter Roberts | Date: 10 Sep 2015
Experts from throughout Australia are coming together and combining their skills to ensure no stone is left unturned when it comes to addressing the complex issue of frost.
Frost is estimated to cost the Australian grains industry about $360 million annually in direct and indirect yield losses, and particularly affects western and southern cropping regions.
The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) National Frost Initiative is taking a multi-discipline approach to frost mitigation that encompasses genetic, management and environmental solutions.
Researchers and agronomists involved with this research effort recently toured Western Australian trial sites where some of the genetics and management research is being conducted under the initiative.
On the tour were representatives from organisations from across Australia including the GRDC, DAFWA, CSIRO, Murdoch University, the University of Adelaide, the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Living Farm, ConsultAg, Facey Group, Fitzgerald Biosphere Group, the WA No-Tillage Farmers Association and Birchip Cropping Group.
Sites visited included WA’s main frost benchmarking trial site at Brookton, as well as trial sites at York, Cuballing, Newdegate, Kondinin and Corrigin.
Coincidentally, frost events occurred in some districts visited during the tour, including Newdegate. The frosts in parts of WA’s central grainbelt, Great Southern and Lakes districts have resulted in some damage to crops.
As well as providing an opportunity to inspect first-hand the work that is taking place in WA, the tour enabled scientists and agronomists to increase their skills and share new ideas.
Geneticists learnt about management approaches to frost through discussions with growers and consultants, and experts discussed innovative ways that genetic and management solutions could potentially be combined to improve outcomes for growers.
Also discussed was the influence of different environmental conditions and soil types on frost severity.
Field skills were shared, with Department of Agriculture and Food researcher (and National Frost Initiative management program leader) Ben Biddulph demonstrating how to identify frost damage in barley heads.
Some of the potential frost management techniques being investigated at the sites visited include soil amelioration, crop stubble rates, crop grazing, and crop ‘architecture’.
In addition to visiting trial sites, tour participants undertook precision agriculture training to assist them with the collection and processing of harvester yield data for their trials.
Following the WA tour, the GRDC National Frost Initiative steering committee – of which I am chairman - met in Loxton, South Australia, to talk with growers and visit the Australian National Frost Program trial site based in the area.
To assist with identification of frost damage in crops, the Cereals - Frost Identification: The Back Pocket Guide are a useful resource.
Peter Roberts, GRDC
0428 389 060
Natalie Lee, Cox Inall Communications
08 9864 2034, 0427 189 827