BRENDON CANT brendon at iinet.net.au
Wed Mar 4 02:35:37 CET 2009



Although the sun is shining, many WA grain growers are still counting the
cost of a severe frost at –4oC on the night of September 22, 2008.

Overall financial loss to growers was around $105 million, says consultant
Garren Knell of Consult-Ag.

One Kukerin, WA grower said the September frost caused yield loss from 10 to
90 per cent, depending on paddock position on his 2500 hectare property sown
to wheat, barley, lupins, canola and field peas.

He indicated that the extended dry spell in August accelerated crop
development, making the crop more vulnerable, although crops on deeper soils
were not as badly affected.

Canola, usually robust, was extensively damaged, as were lupins, but field
peas, usually regarded as vulnerable to frost, were less affected.

Research and extension activities have aimed at minimising frost’s impact by
avoiding frost events through better management of flowering time by
cultivar selection or time of sowing, or by growing less susceptible crops.

Yet many growers who experienced the September 22 frost have concluded that
even with accepted frost management measures, they can’t control the outcome
of a rare and severe frost event.

For the past 30 years in WA, the incidence of frost has increased. Growers
are also planting more crops with higher inputs and higher yield and
consequently potential per hectare losses are greater.

The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) has committed more
than $750,000 to frost research during the next four years and is
investigating a range of strategies, including developing cereals with
improved levels of frost resistance.

One project is based at Pingelly where Dr Ben Biddulph of the Department of
Agriculture and Food WA (DAFWA) has begun a four year study to characterise
the temperature associated with frost events and level of frost induced
sterility experienced in barley and wheat in frost prone regions of WA.

This GRDC funded project is a collaboration between DAFWA, University of
Adelaide and Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries.

Dr Biddulph says frost damage occurs at any time past booting, but is most
devastating close to flowering as it causes aborted florets and damages
heads and stems. All wheat and barley heads flowering on September 22 had
significant frost damage, with more than 60 per cent sterility.

Flowering wheat is more susceptible to frost than barley, as –2oC caused
more than 90 per cent sterility in wheat, but only minor damage to barley at
similar developmental stages, according to Dr Biddulph’s research.

While too early to conclude if frost tolerant lines trialled at Pingelly
last season have useful genes for breeding frost tolerant wheat and barley,
Dr Biddulph believes some lines look very promising and repeating trials in
subsequent seasons will confirm if this is so.

More information is in the GRDC factsheet ‘Managing Frost, Minimising Damage
’, available from www.grdc.com.au/uploads/documents/frost.pdf and the
booklet ‘Managing Frost Risk – a Guide for Southern Australian Grains’,
available from Ground Cover by emailing ground-cover-direct at canprint.com.au


The Crop Doctor is GRDC Managing Director, Peter Reading, Tel 02 6166 4500
Further Information: Dr Ben Biddulph, Tel 08 9368 3431

                               Garren Knell, Tel 08 9881 5551

GRDC REF:CDFeb091.doc/DAW00162/Juttner020309

Brendon Cant & Associates
Public Relations & Marketing
Suite 5
4 Gugeri St
Claremont WA 6010
Tel 08 9384 1122

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