Frost not the only factor for sowing

Frost management only one factor at sowing time


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After a particularly high number of frost events last year, growers are being warned against forgetting about other major factors which affect sowing dates.

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South Australian Research Development Institute's Dr Peter Hayman spoke about frost management at the GRDC Update in Dubbo.

South Australian Research Development Institute's Dr Peter Hayman spoke about frost management at the GRDC Update in Dubbo.

Many growers throughout NSW suffered in 2017 after a season which will long be remembered for damaging frosts.

The widespread severe frost events caused significant damage to winter cereals, canola and pulse crops.

Estimates suggest frost damage costs in excess of $300 million to the Australian grains industry every year. 

Dr Peter Hayman, researcher from the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) and part of the GRDC National Frost Initiative, said the damage in 2017 was a low frequency, high impact event and believes there were a number of climate factors to take into consideration when looking at the season.

Dr Hayman presented a research paper at the GRDC Grains Research Update in Dubbo, suggesting growers be mindful of heat stress and water stress as well as frost when deciding on sowing dates and maturity type.

“There is a lot more climate research on heat and drought than on spring frost events,” Dr Hayman said.

“Drought has always attracted research due to the widespread impact on agriculture.

“In contrast, spring frosts are mainly a concern to grain farmers and horticulturists.

“The greatest damage comes from freezing damage with ice crystals physically rupturing cell walls and membranes. This usually happens when the plant is colder than minus two degrees Celsius.

“The interaction of frost with heat and water stress is a good reason for a risk management approach to frost.

“As well as the direct damage from frost, there is indirect damage as well.

“This can come from yield loss due to conservative sowing time and variety choice leading to later flowering in an attempt to avoid frost. Pioneer in frost research, Dr Bill Single, said that the fear of frost does more damage than frost itself.

“Frost is not an issue that can be solved, we need to take a risk management approach that recognises growers have different appetites for risk.

“The GRDC National Frost Initiative is a good source of technical information to support growers and advisers as they plan for 2018.” 

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