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How to recover from frost events

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How to recover from frost events

Frost damage to cereals is a significant annual production constraint for the Australian grains industry and can result in considerable yield losses.

The length of the frost season has increased across much of the Australian grainbelt by between 10 and 55 days between 1960 and 2011. In some parts of eastern Australia the number of frost events has increased. CSIRO analysis of climate data over this period suggests the increasing frost incidence is due to the southerly displacement and intensification of high pressure systems (sub-tropical ridges) and to heightened dry atmospheric conditions associated with more frequent El Niño conditions during this period. The southern shifting highs bring air masses from further south
than in the past. This air is very cold and contributes to frost conditions.

In the eastern Australian grainbelt the window of frost occurrence has broadened, so frosts are occurring both earlier and much later in the season. In the Western Australian grainbelt there are fewer earlier frosts and a shift to frosts later into the season. The frost window has lengthened by three weeks in the Victorian grainbelt and by two weeks in the NSW grainbelt. The frost window in Western Australia and Queensland has remained the same length, while sites in eastern South Australia are similar to Victoria and sites in western South Australia are more like Western Australia. Northern Victoria seems to be the epicentre of the change in frost occurrence, with some locations experiencing a broadening of the frost season by 53 days.

 

Here are some tips for recovering from frost:

  • Act early if frost damage has had a serious financial impact
  • Prepare a future business plan and, where necessary, seek advice on tactics from consultants and rural counsellors
  • Communicate and discuss the likely impact of the frost with your bank and prepare a recovery plan with the bank and other financial providers
  • Assess the physical, financial and people situation factually so that decisions are based on the best information
  • Develop alternate strategies for dealing with frosted crops in future programs and how finances can be adjusted
  • Prepare a draft budget and physical plans for next year and provide this information to business partners and financiers
  • Develop a written plan of your proposed actions and review it as information and circumstances change
  • Assess the personal impact. Remain conscious of the fact that frost can cause an emotional rollercoaster and trigger feelings of depression, grief and loss. Maintain contact with family, friends and colleagues and seek professional advice if necessary. Also be aware of the impact on your neighbours and community
  • Frost can be easily forgotten from one year to the next. Don’t let early rain distract from having plans in place

 

Plan ahead with pre-season management tactics:

  • Assess personal approach to risk
  • Assess frost risk of property
  • Diversify the business
  • Identify paddocks and zones that are prone to frost using precision agriculture tools like Decipher’s FREE biomass imagery
  • Review nutrient management
  • Modify soil heat bank
  • Select appropriate crops
  • Manipulate flowering times
  • Fine tune cultivar selection

 

Put in-season management tactics in place:

  • Grazing
  • Extra nutrients

 

Evaluate post-frost event management options:

  • Take through to harvest
  • Cut and bale
  • Grazing, manuring and crop topping

 

 

 

Information sourced from GRDC.


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