Ground Cover Supplement : GC Supplement - Frost
13 Western region FARMING FRUSTRATION Peter Roberts identifies frost as his most frustrating farming challenge, but the WA grain grower says he is optimistic research is edging closer to delivering wheat varieties that are more resistant to these extreme cold snaps. Rather than sow crops later and take a hit on yield potential, Peter today sows a range of crops and varieties with differing flowering times. On low-lying parts of the farm he sows barley and oats. Where wheat is grown on frost-susceptible areas, the later-flowering variety YitpiA is preferred. He has tested FangA wheat in small plots, but found its growth period too long for his environment. "As growers, we often sacrifice yield to mitigate the damage that frost could potentially do to our crops by sowing later and with less profitable cultivars, such as oats, on frost-prone sites," he says. Instead, Peter has sought to maximise yield from the same level of inputs by sowing early with effective weed control. Rather than wait for the seasonal break, Peter adopts a sow-by-the-calendar approach, planting dry and using technologies that allow him to chase weeds. Two examples of available technology are Clearfield® wheat and barley and Roundup Ready® canola. In 2011, he bulked up new Intervix®- tolerant varieties of wheat and barley. "The biggest driver of higher yields is time of sowing," he says. "Crops have to be in the ground early." More immediately, he says, a "kicker" for improving farm profit in high-rainfall areas is integrating crop and livestock systems through grazing canola and grazing cereals, which has been validated through the GRDC's investment in Grain & Graze 2. "It can take guts to open the gate on a bulky canola or wheat crop," he says. "But we can do this with our current best adapted varieties. All that's needed is the opportunity to sow early, have good weed control and then graze them hard. This allows more crop to be grown other than by reducing stock numbers. "Studies so far have shown there is very little decrease in yield, usually an increase in protein and the extra benefit of being able to push back the flowering window, which also helps in managing frost." □ Grdc research codes uwa00160, daw00234, daw00162 more information: Dr Juan Juttner, senior manager discovery, GRDC, 02 6166 4558, firstname.lastname@example.org PHOTO: NICOLE BAXTER ‘hay or harvest’ tool New ‘proof-of-concept’ research planned for 2014 will investigate the possibility of using remote sensing technology to detect frost damage in wheat and the likelihood of these damaged crops going on to yield sufficient grain. If a tool, based on the potential method, could be developed it would help growers decide how much of a frosted crop to cut for hay or grain. The goal is to combine biomass and yield estimates via satellite or aerial imagery with a measure of frost damage collected via grower records and yield mapping data. Using this information researchers will then attempt to calculate a frost-induced yield map. Growers with yield mapping capabilities will be approached to identify at least five paddocks in which wheat has previously suffered frost damage. A further five non-frosted paddocks close to the frost-prone paddocks will be selected as controls. The 10 paddocks will then be mapped using satellite imagery and yield maps. From these, the relative yield impact of frost-induced stress will be calculated. Satellite images with 28 metre by 28 metre spatial resolution will be obtained for the time points immediately before and in the weeks following the defined frost events. A range of analytical procedures will then be assessed for their capacity to predict the yield of frosted paddocks. Western Panel chairman and grower Peter Roberts rates frost as his most frustrating farming challenge.
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