Frost data to help growers to reduce risk


Fifty wheat and 25 barley varieties have been planted at weekly intervals on a property at Wickepin, which will be monitored for their response to frost over the next three months.

Department of Agriculture and Food researcher Ben Biddulph will start collecting data about the impact of frost on commercial cereal varieties this week, which will be used to develop a frost tolerance rating system.

Frost can cause significant yield and quality losses, especially during spring when plants are flowering and most susceptible.

The research, funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation as part of the Australian National Frost Program, will provide crucial information to be incorporated into a frost management package planned for 2015.

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Dr Biddulph said this year's data would help to validate information collected last year from Western Australian, South Australian and New South Wales trial sites.

"Historically little is known about the variation in frost tolerance in Australian varieties, leading to the assumption that little exists but preliminary results show that is not the case," he said.

Dr Biddulph said there were some early signs of varietal differences in wheat and barley to susceptibility to frost but more work had to be done to validate the results to develop a robust rating system.

"Genetic variation does exist for frost under milder conditions which induce grain sterility in the range of 10-80 per cent in wheat (0 to -2°C) and barley (-2 to -4°C)," he said. "At the moment no variation has been identified for stem and head frost, where freezing damage occurs, and wheat and barley appear equally susceptible during grain filling.

"These results will be further tested as part of our data collection this year."

Last year's results also suggest that stubble retention can increase a plant's susceptibility to frost.

"This finding is being investigated further through GRDC's Regional Cropping Solutions Network with trials this year in collaboration with Living Farm and grower groups in the Kwinana West and Albany Port Zones," Dr Biddulph said.

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