Workshops investigate early season frost impact

Unexpected and striking with uncommon timing and severity, a succession of severe frosts in August hit this season’s yield expectations in the southern region and delivered another risk-management challenge.

Photo of Agrilink consultant Mick Faulkner at a GRDDC workshop

Agrilink consultant Mick Faulkner demonstrating how to assess stem frost damage during a GRDC workshop at Clare, South Australia. Mr Faulkner was one of the presenters at the recent frost-management workshops, which provided practical advice on how to look for frost damage and best manage affected crops.

PHOTOS: Sharon Watt

In some districts, up to 23 frosts occurred within the month and the duration in some cases was several hours.

The damage will not be fully known until harvest, with moisture stress in some parts of the southern region late into September further compounding the situation.

In response to the unusual frost occurrence, the GRDC organised a series of emergency frost-management workshops at Clare, Kimba and Loxton in South Australia, and West Wyalong and Finley in New South Wales.

Initiated by the GRDC Southern Panel following input and feedback from consultants across the region, the workshops were attended by hundreds of growers and advisers who were provided with information on how to identify frost damage and the likely success of a range of management strategies.

The workshops covered frost physiology, crop potential, recovery and grain quality of frosted crops, cutting frost-damaged crops for hay and silage, and managing frost risks. Images to assist with identification of symptoms, tips on how to maximise returns from converting crops to hay and fodder for livestock, and details about the GRDC-supported National Frost Initiative were provided.

Practical demonstrations on dissecting plants to check for frost damage and crop walks to look at damage firsthand were included in the workshop programs.

Southern Panel member Bill Long, who is also an SA-based agronomist and grain grower, said the workshops equipped participants with information and resources to help in their crop management decision-making processes.

“This has been an extensive and intense frost event, affecting crops in SA’s Mallee, Eyre Peninsula, Mid and Lower North and Yorke Peninsula, as well as the Victorian Mallee and parts of central-west and southern NSW,” Mr Long said.

“We are used to dealing with frost at the head-emergence stage, but these frosts have hit during the crops’ vegetative stages – impacting largely on short-growing-season wheats, as well as canola and pulse crops. And the extent of damage could be substantially underestimated.

“Growers needed to know what they were dealing with. If crops had been severely impacted by frost and a decent yield was unlikely, it was going to be a considerable waste of money applying urea or fungicides over the remainder of the season,” he said.

Agronomic experts speaking at the workshops said it was imperative to check stems and not just heads because of the early season timing of these frost events. Identifying the extent of damage was a critical first step in deciding what management options were going to be most suitable given individual circumstances.

Consultant Claire Gutsche, of Rural Directions, welcomed the advice offered at the Clare workshop.

Photo of Claire Gutsche

Consultant Claire Gutsche from Rural Directions: "it was also useful to practise identifying frost-affected crops in the field."

“The workshop was really informative, it was great to have so many experts in the one room sharing their knowledge with us,” Ms Gutsche said.

“The workshop covered everything I need to know about frost. It was also useful to practise identifying frost-affected crops in the field. Something I got out of the workshop is that every case is different. I am now more confident in getting out in the paddock to assess the damage, and help make a decision that suits the individual business.”

More information:

Bill Long,
0417 803 034,  

The Frost Ground Cover Supplement is available at:

What to do with a frosted crop (Hot Topic information hub)


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GRDC Project Code ARO00002, CSP 00143, CSP 00180, UWA00160, DAW00162, DAW00234, DAW00241, MCV00010, SDI00019, UQ0071, UA 00136, UWA00161

Region South, North