Re­duc­ing the cost of frost

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - Aglife - BY GENEVIEVE CLARKE

Frost costs the Aus­tralian grains in­dus­try about $360-mil­lion from di­rect and in­di­rect losses each year based on Grains Re­search and Devel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion es­ti­ma­tions.

The Wim­mera has ex­pe­ri­enced mul­ti­ple frosts al­ready this sea­son, but it is when crops are closer to flow­er­ing that dam­age can be sig­nif­i­cant.

The GRDC Na­tional Frost Ini­tia­tive started in 2014 to help grow­ers lower their losses to frost.

It is an in­te­grated pro­gram de­signed to help address man­age­ment prac­tices, en­vi­ron­men­tal ap­proaches and ge­netic op­tions to mit­i­gate frost ef­fects on win­ter crops.

This year, Birchip Crop­ping Group is run­ning two tri­als look­ing at man­age­ment prac­tices and their ef­fect on re­duc­ing frost dam­age in crops.

The trial es­tab­lished at Lon­gerenong is look­ing at the ef­fect of sow­ing rate and ni­tro­gen in wheat to as­sess whether chang­ing canopy den­sity has an in­flu­ence on the sever­ity of frost dam­age.

BCG se­nior re­searcher Kelly An­gel said there was some con­jec­ture around ni­tro­gen’s in­flu­ence on the losses as­so­ci­ated with frost.

“Anec­do­tally, farm­ers have com­mented that ni­tro­gen-rich crops seem to be more af­fected by frost,” she said.

“The ques­tion is, is this re­ally the case? Or is there some­thing less ob­vi­ous at play?”

It has been hy­poth­e­sised that dense crops might have a higher level of syn­chronic­ity in growth stage, re­sult­ing in more plants be­ing prone to frost dam­age at one point in time.

This trial is one in a series of farmer-sown tri­als across Aus­tralia.

It aims to de­ter­mine if sow­ing rate and ni­tro­gen rate in­flu­ences crop sus­cep­ti­bil­ity to frost dam­age and iden­tify the key drivers that ini­ti­ate these dif­fer­ences.

Re­gional grower prac­tices have been used to de­ter­mine sow­ing and ni­tro­gen rates. This year is the fi­nal year of fund­ing for this part of the GRDC Na­tional Frost Ini­tia­tive.

So far, it has led to the devel­op­ment of a toolset that grow­ers can use to mit­i­gate dam­age. Tri­als have in­ves­ti­gated va­ri­ety and crop se­lec­tion, time of sow­ing, stub­ble and nu­tri­ent man­age­ment and row spac­ing, among oth­ers.

“We know that frost is some­thing that can’t be avoided com­pletely by grow­ers,” Ms An­gel said.

“There is no such thing as frost re­sis­tance, but work through the Na­tional Frost Ini­tia­tive has pre­sented a suite of tac­tics that might help to re­duce risks and iden­ti­fied oth­ers that might in­crease risks.”

Work from the GRDC Na­tional Frost Ini­tia­tive and op­tions to help iden­tify and man­age frost risk in crops will be pre­sented at the BCG Main Field Day.

The field day is on Septem­ber 12 at the BCG Main Re­search Site at Nar­ra­port, on the Nullawil-birchip Road. More in­for­ma­tion about the event is avail­able on­line at www.bcg.org.au/ events or by call­ing 5492 2787.

For more in­for­ma­tion on the BCG Wim­mera re­search pro­gram, watch for this monthly col­umn. Al­ter­na­tively, peo­ple can call Birchip Crop­ping Group on 5492 2787.

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