Frost risk factor

26 Feb, 2003 10:00 PM
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WIDER plant spacings and sowing a mix of varieties with varying plant heights and maturities are some of the agronomic strategies growers can use to minimize the risk of frost.

According to Garren Knell, of ConsultAg, it is unlikely that the incidence of frost has increased, but the effects are now felt more frequently with changed farming practices such as increased cropping, the ability to sow large areas over a shorter time frame and stubble retention have all increased the exposure to frost.

The GRDC funded project is investigating how potassium, nitrogen, row spacing and claying may affect frost damage at Borden, Varley and Ongerup trial sites.

"It is important to have some idea of the frost risk for individual paddocks and develop appropriate strategies," said Mr Knell.

Having identified high risk areas, he suggested widening the flowering window by varying the time of sowing, mixing wheat varieties for season length and height, substituting wheat with barley and oats and lowering inputs to reduce the risk of loss.

The cost benefit of staggered sowing dates had to be weighed up with daily yield penalties of 20kg/ha associated with delayed sowing.

"Wider row spacings (18-36cm) on heavy country can boost the temperature at head height by 1-2C, said Mr Knell.

He suggested stubble removal from high frost risk paddocks with heavy soils since it has an insulating effect.

"It is also important to maintain adequate potassium levels as this nutrient strengthens plant cell walls," he added.

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