How cereal crops respond to frost

30 Sep, 2008 02:13 PM
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Department research officer Ben Biddulph tagging barley plants at the east Cuballing frost research site. Barley and wheat varieties were sown at weekly intervals from the 21st of April this year in order to have material flowering over a range of frost events.
Department research officer Ben Biddulph tagging barley plants at the east Cuballing frost research site. Barley and wheat varieties were sown at weekly intervals from the 21st of April this year in order to have material flowering over a range of frost events.

The Department of Agriculture and Food is undertaking research to determine how cereal crops respond to frost and its impact on cereal production.

Department research officer Ben Biddulph said it was well known that frost could cause significant economic losses to growers in the Western Australian grains industry.

"Frost damage to cereal crops can occur at anytime but is most devastating at heading as a consequence of aborted florets, head damage and stem damage," he said.

"Frost events that occur when the grain is filling also contribute to significant losses through increased screenings and down grading of quality."

Mr Biddulph said past research and extension activities had aimed to minimise the impact of frost, by managing flowering time to avoid frost events, either through cultivar selection,time of sowing or growing less susceptible crops.

"This year's research is looking at crops that are exposed to frost during flowering and how this impacts on production," he said.

Mr Biddulph said a trial site of wheat and barley had been established east of Cuballing, and was monitored for induced sterility on flowering plants andenvironmental conditions, which would enable the characterisation of the frost environment in WA.

"To date, the very frosty conditions that have been experienced in the WA wheatbelt through July, August and September have worked in well for the progress of the investigation for this season," he said.

The research is part of a four-year project, which is a collaboration between the department and the Queensland Department of Primary Industries, the University of Adelaide and the Grains Research and Development Corporation.

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