Frost - Frequently Asked Questions

At what temperature does frost occur in a cereal crop?

Cold damage (5ºC down to -2ºC)

occurs when plants are exposed to temperature less than 5°C down to -2°C. If this occurs during pollen development (Z39 - 45) it can cause spikelet damage.

Why does rain make it worse?

When is the crop most susceptible?

What does frost damage look like?

How do I check for frost damage?

Is stem frost damage as bad as flowering frost damage?

Do all crops respond the same to frost?

Why do crops with high yield potential get frosted more?

Do all wheat varieties respond the same under frost?

How do you use the frost performance values on NVT?

What is the soil heat bank?

How does stubble loads affect frost severity?

Does sowing direction impact frost severity and duration?

What is the effect of nutrition, nitrogen, potassium and copper?

What is meant by synchronicity of the canopy? Why does this matter?

Does soil amelioration reduce frost severity on light textured soils?

Harvesting a frosted cereal crop?

What management options do i have to minimise frost damage?

Frost terminology

Tolerance Used to describe a plant under stress when the extent of loss does not exceed the economic threshold level particularly during freezing and survival during the reproductive stage.
Susceptibility The inability of a plant to restrict damage from frost.
Resistance Resistance is an absolute term where the plant is completely unaffected by a frost event.
Sensitivity The degree to which the plant responds to stress.
Avoidance/Escape The plant has never been exposed to frost or freezing damage.


  • Christner BC, Cai R, Morris CE, McCarter KS, Foreman CM, Skidmore ML, Montross SN, Sands DC, 2008. Geographic, seasonal, and precipitation chemistry influence on the abundance and activity of biological ice nucleators in rain and snow. Proceedings of the National Academy, Environmental Sciences, vol. 105, pp.18854–18859.
  • Smith R, Minkey D, Butcher T, Hyde S, Jackson S, Reeves K, Biddulph B, 2017. Stubble management recommendations and limitations for frost prone landscapes. Grains Research Development Corporation Research Updates, Perth, WA.
  • Bell R, Ma Q, 2017. Potassium Fertiliser Alleviates Drought and Frost Stress in Wheat. Grains Research Development Corporation Research Updates, Perth, WA.

Important disclaimer

The Chief Executive Officer of the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development and the State of Western Australia accept no liability whatsoever by reason of negligence or otherwise arising from the use or release of this information or any part of it.


Frost FAQ Copyright © Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, 2017.


Copies of this document may be available in alternative formats upon request.

3 Baron-Hay Court,
South Perth WA 6151
Tel: +61 (0)8 9368 3333


Western Australia
Ben Biddulph
0428 920 654