Reducing the cost of frost
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.