Frosty WA by Tim Evans

About 400,000 hectares of WA's wheatbelt is affected by frost every year, reducing yields and restricting grower income.

Agriculture WA researcher Craig White is aiming to increase farmers' recognition of frost susceptibility, and thereby improve their profitability, in a three-year project supported by growers through the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).

"The project aims to improve profitability in frost-prone areas by working with groups of farmers to apply existing knowledge and identify site-specific frost risks," Mr White said. "I have already held meetings with farmers to define research work programs for the 1998 season."

"One of the most interesting aspects of the research will be determining whether frost occurrence has increased in the last 10 years," Mr White said. "Many farmers believe it has, and the project will analyse historical temperature data and see if this is the case.

"I suspect low temperatures and frost conditions are probably no more prevalent now than i n the past, and increases in damage are more likely due to changes in cropping systems."

Management strategies

Strategies for managing frost-prone areas include row spacing and orientation, nutrition, effect of soil type, landscape and stubble retention.

Mr White said the researchers would be assessing new satellite technology and temperature data loggers to collect site-specific data to give a better understanding of site-specific risks.

He said it was important farmers realised they needed to record temperature routinely (especially minimums), as they did rainfall, because temperature has a big influence on crop development.

Program 3.7.3 Contact: Mr Craig White 08 9081 3111

Region National, North, South, West