Screening of frost tolerance in cereals

Page last updated: Tuesday, 8 January 2019 - 12:20pm

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The Screening of frost tolerance in cereals project screens wheat and barley varieties in frost prone areas across Australia with the aim to provide a ranking value for growers and advisors to identify new sources of frost tolerance in wheat that are equal to barley.

This project aims to characterise susceptibility to frost events at flowering in wheat and barley. Frost damage to crops can occur at any time but are most devastating close to flowering, as the pollen is particularly sensitive to extreme variations in temperature. Frost at flowering may lead to aborted florets, which results in reduced grain set.

Previous research in frost susceptibility in wheat and barley from across the country has had mixed results. This could have been due to genetic or environmental variations, or possibly from experimental methods. This project is a continuation of a previous project that was successful in creating a standardised method for screening of frost induced sterility (FIS). This is now being used in the northern, southern and western GRDC cropping regions to allow for better comparisons between the different varieties of wheat and barley in the all production zones of Australia.

From humble beginnings of testing just three wheat varieties and eight barley varieties, in 2015, the project tested 108 varieties of wheat and 36 of barley at eight different times of sowing at trial sites located at Dale, Merredin, Wickepin and Aldersyde, near Brookton, Western Australia. Results from over the last seven years have shown that under a severe frost (that is, -4.5°C or below), or multiple minor frosts (for example, several nights of -1 to -2°C), all wheat varieties tested are equally susceptible to FIS, resulting in up to 100% yield loss. It has also shown that barley is more tolerant then wheat to the minor frosts, but will succumb to FIS under severe conditions.

The results from this project have contributed to the rating and rakings of wheat and barley varieties across Australia that was release in February 2016 and available on the NVT website. The key messages are to first select varieties on performance and agronomic fit in your environment, then use the frost ratings to fine tune your risk management.

Further research is underway to quantify the relationship between reproductive frost damage and grain yield loss of varieties.

Recently published results

The Frost Value Plus tool (see link on the right) allows users to select a region of interest and compare the frost susceptibility of up to six varieties.


Australian wheat and barley frost susceptibility benchmarking research is supported by DPIRD and the Grains Research and Development Corporation through UA00136, UA00162, DAW00234, UW00005 through the National Frost Initative.

Dr Tim March, University of Adelaide, +61 (0)467 709 236

Professor Brian Cullis, University of Woolongong, +61 (0)2 4221 5641

Contact information


Kelly Ryan