Enhancing frost tolerance and/or avoidance in wheat, barley and canola crops through in-season agronomic manipulation

Page last updated: Friday, 7 July 2023 - 9:00am

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This project aims to assess the effectiveness of avoiding frost damage through the manipulation of crop phenology using novel agronomic practices, including the application of plant growth regulators or mechanical defoliation. Additionally, bactericides and cryoprotectants will be evaluated for their effectiveness in reducing frost damage in grains.

Start date: 11/04/2022
Finish date: 31/10/2025


Australian crop production takes place in a challenging environment where growers must cope with climatic extremes. Managing production risk in yield-limiting environments due to abiotic events such as drought, high temperatures and frost is a necessity for growers to remain financially viable.

It is estimated that $360 million is lost annually in wheat production Australia-wide because of frost depending on the severity of the events. The Grain Industry Association of Western Australia (GIWA) estimated that two million tonnes of wheat were lost due to the frost events of 2016, with similarly devasting frost events occurring in WA and southern Australia in the 2021 season. 

Analysis of the occurrence of frost over southern Australia has shown that the length of the frost season has increased by 26 days compared to the long-term mean for the period 1960 to 1990. This increase in frost occurrence increases the need for existing in-season agronomic practices for crop damage avoidance to be augmented with additional mitigation approaches.

One possibility for the increase in frost damage incidence is the presence of resident ice-nucleating bacteria (INB) on crop residue and light rainfall events that carry INB with them and occur late in the afternoon or the evening. Ice nucleating bacteria and their associated ice nucleation activity have been associated with increased frost damage in crops.

DPIRD will research screening bactericide and cryoprotectant products under controlled environmental conditions in this project. Promising products will further be field evaluated over various production environments and crop types.

Products that purport tolerance to/protection against frost will be assessed separately to arrive at novel outcomes for frost avoidance and protection in wheat, barley and canola crops.

This project is a collaboration between DPIRD, FAR Australia, CSIRO, NSW Department of Primary Industries and the University of Adelaide.

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Project code:


Contact information

Amanuel Bekuma