Managing Frost Risk
Host: GRDC | Date: 03 Oct 2018
Frost is a costly and often unpredictable problem that costs Australian grain growers more than $300 million a year, but the GRDC’s National Frost Initiative is proactively working to develop more frost resistant varieties, identify best frost management practices and to create tools to predict frosts.
Dr Peter Hayman from the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) is one of the scientists working in the National Frost Initiative and says in 2017, eastern Australia had an ‘horrendous’ number of frosts followed by a heat wave.
Peter says with an unusually high number of nights below zero and even frosts very late in November, there were widespread losses in wheat, barley, pulse and canola crops, with some producers losing complete paddocks.
He says it’s important to recognise the psychological and financial cost of frost and how devastating it can be, particularly towards the end of the season when producers anticipate harvest only to have it damaged by frost.
While it’s difficult to tease out the probability of frosts from historical climate records, Peter says there is some basis for the prediction that in El Nino years, Australia has more frosts.
There’s also a lot of confidence that decades are becoming warmer, which will mean less likelihood of frost, and plant breeders are concentrating on more frost-tolerant varieties.
In the end, Peter says it’s about managing the risk, which is different for every paddock, enterprise and producer.
The five-year National Frost Initiative aims to deliver growers a combination of genetic and management solutions to be combined with tools and information to better predict frost events, such as:
- genetics – aiming to rank current wheat and barley varieties for frost susceptibility and identify more frost-tolerant wheat and barley germplasm;
- management – investigating if there are management practices or preventive products that growers could implement to reduce the impact of frost; and
- 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.
Dr Peter Hayman, Principal scientist
Centre for Climate Applications
SARDI, Adelaide SA.
0401 996 448
GRDC Project code: CMA00002
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