Determining yield under frost – one degree at a time

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The national 'Determining yield under frost – one degree at a time' project was a collaborative effort between the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), Kalyx, Living Farm and University of Adelaide, with trial sites in Western Australia, South Australia and New South Wales.

The project aimed to determine the relationship between the level of floret sterility (FS) and yield loss in wheat and barley.

Brenton Leske: Providing an overview of the project

Project background

The project determined the relationship between the levels of FS and yield loss in wheat grown in the southern, western and northern regions. All commercial wheat and barley varieties included in the trial were susceptible to frost at anthesis. While this approach compared genetic material at the same stage of development and its ability to maintain grain number under frost, it did not account for a plants ability to compensate for frost. Cereal crops can compensate for frost induced damage to the reproductive tissue either by increasing grain number through new tillers or by increasing the grain size of the remaining grains in the head.

Results from trials between 2014 and 2018 showed that for both wheat and barley, yield potential was set up well before the frost events occurred, and this contributed largely to the final yield. The compensatory effects of wheat and barley were consistent with the growth stages of the cultivars. The phenology genetics of the cultivars based on the growing conditions largely determined grain size and potential grain number in a head. 

Preliminary yield data showed some wheat varieties were able to compensate for loss in grain number, due to frost damage, by increasing grain size and weight. Identifying varieties that have a greater ability to compensate for yield loss could provide an avenue for growers to reduce financial losses due to frost in susceptible areas. As well as FS, viable and non-viable tillers were assessed from over 30 commercial varieties of wheat.

This project was conducted bewteen 2014–2019. 


The Australian wheat and barley frost susceptibility benchmarking research was supported by DPIRD and the Grains Research and Development Corporation through DAW00234: ‘Determining yield under frost – one degree at a time’.

Contact information

Amanuel Bekuma

Determining yield under frost – one degree at a time