Frost agronomy research | Department of Agriculture and Food WA

September 30, 2019

With every second year on average frost events are significant enough to wipe at tens of millions of dollars of WA’s crops. So it is no surprise that the state’s grain growers place the frost management at the top of their research, development and extension priority list. Currently growers do not have accurate up-to-date information on how present and emerging farming practices change the severity of frosted events. Dr. Ben Biddulph from the Department of Agriculture and Food WA and his team are working in this area to determine the susceptibility of crops to frost in WA under different farming practices. So the main work thats getting done at this site is the benchmarking of the wheat and barley varieties for their frost performance values so basically their relative susceptibility to frost. We’ve also got other work looking at how different agronomic management practices can change frost damage so we’re looking at nitrogen and seeding rate. We also have a little bit of work on this site looking at potash nutrition with Murdoch University looking at how potash nutrition and other nutritional factors can influence the relative susceptiablility to frost. We also have some work with some external collaborators with UWA looking at spatially mapping the spatial and temporal variation in frost across the actual trial sites and across the plots. Dr Dion Nicol researcher from DAFWA is looking at the implications of agronomic factors including nitrogen, variety and seeding rate and how that changes frost susceptibility. For this we have four times for sowing within each set of experiments and we’re looking at varying seed rates of four major varieties and then get higher and low nitrogen looking in trying to change the architecture of the crop from sort of more spread development through to a more synchronous canopy where flowering is much tighter and see how that changes the frost susceptibility. We also have a series of nitrogen experiments which is looking at later applications of low through to high rates of nitrogen and seeing if we can see any changes in frost susceptibility with those and also looking at developing a more improved physiological measurements to try and point processes of my indicate tolerance or susceptibility. The extensive trial work also looks at how plants respond after a frost event. Brenton Leske explains; So we’re looking at two main method here that plants can compensate from frost damage. Firstly looking at increases in grain size and secondly looking at re-tillering and we’re looking to quantify a plants capacity to respond in those two measures and so when a whole spike is lost due to frost does the plant send up new tillers or if part of the spike is frosted does it increase grain size through its remaining grains to help compensate for that loss in grain number. There’s 20 to 30 trials nationally conducted each year with complex and multiple variables measured throughout the year. As Dr. Karyn Reeves explains this makes the role of a biometrician a very important one. So the role of a biometrician in the project is to underpin the scientific rigor of the research and to ensure that any treatment differences we find that we can conclude that they’re real. Out of the benchmarking trials we produce the frost performance values and their uploaded annually onto the NVT for the new wheat varieties and they come through. For the agronomic work that’s just in the first early stages of that work so that will be 2 to 3 years before we actually start to present that work to industry but essentially that will go out through the normal extension channels in collaboration with GRDC and regional updates across Western Australia.

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