Ground Cover Supplement : GC Supplement - Frost
12 Western region Frost management high on western cropping agenda Grain growers in some frost-prone areas of western australia celebrated the 2013 season without a damaging cold snap. But long-term trends indicate frosts are becoming more frequent and growers in the region need to actively manage for potential frosts each season WITH SIX OF the past 10 years delivering frosts significant enough to wipe out a large proportion of Western Australian crops it is no surprise that most growers in the region rank frost management at the top of their research, development and extension wish list. As president of the local Facey Group, Tincurrin, WA, grower Wade Hinkley keeps a close eye on research -- especially frost research. Wade says his ideal frost-prevention toolkit would include a practical strategy to help make 'hay or harvest' decisions for frosted paddocks, rather than relying on visual assessment to gauge if crops are still growing. "We had a really bad frost in September 2012 and lost 50 per cent yield in some paddocks," he says. The extent of the frost justified the family decision to diversify into export hay several years ago as a means of frost- proofing his 4000-hectare mixed enterprise 250 kilometres south-east of Perth. "We baled the worst of the frosted wheat, which tripled our returns compared to the areas we left to harvest." Although hay offers an alternative market and helps drought-proof their livestock the family also relies on a 'prevention' strategy based on variety selection and management. They use the Department of Agriculture and Food, WA, online tool Flower Power calculator to identify varietal seeding dates to target optimal flowering. Grazing is sometimes used to manipulate flowering until after the frost period. Other frost- management strategies include: ¢ thermal imaging, which has identified a 3ºC to 4ºC difference in minimum temperatures between paddocks, guiding where frost- sensitive varieties are planted; ¢ planting frost-prone paddocks last to help avoid the high-risk frost period; ¢ using paddock records to monitor frost history; and ¢ planting according to frost-prone areas, such as concentrating pasture crops and hay varieties on sandy zones and around creeks. PHOTO: EVAN COLLIS Western australian grower Wade Hinkley says his ideal frost-prevention toolkit would include a practical strategy to help make ‘hay or harvest’ decisions for frosted paddocks, rather than relying on visual assessment to gauge if crops are still growing.
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