Frost trends and their estimated impact on yield in the Australian wheatbelt

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Zheng, Bangyou ORCID ID icon; Chapman, Scott; Christopher, Jack; Frederiks, Troy; Chenu, Karine


Journal Article

Journal of Experimental Botany




Radiant spring frosts occurring during reproductive developmental stages can result in catastrophic yield loss for wheat producers. To avoid frost during susceptible heading stages, wheat crops are often sown later than is optimal for maximum yield given seasonal rainfall limitations, for example. To better understand the spatial and temporal variability of frost, occurrence and impact of frost events on rainfed wheat production was estimated across the Australian wheatbelt using 0.05° gridded weather datasets. Current genotypes are assumed to be sensitive at Stevenson-screen temperatures lower than 0°C, and simulated yield outcomes at 60 key locations were compared to those for virtual genotypes with different levels of frost tolerance for early-, mid- and late- maturity types and a wide range of sowing dates. No significant trend in frost occurrence over time was observed in most parts of the Australian wheatbelt over the last 57 years. However, more frost events, later last frost day and a significant increase in frost impact on yield was estimated in certain areas, in particular in the South-East and several parts of the West. Across Australia, we found that mean yield could be improved by between 10% and 20% on average if frost tolerant lines were available. Considering frost seasons only, the mean yield could be improved by 50 to %100 by frost tolerance. Across all seasons for the wheatbelt, yield increases resulted from (1) reduced frost damage (ca. 10% improvement) and (2) the ability to use earlier sowing dates to increase yield potential (additional 10% improvement in East). Simulations indicate that genotypes with an improved frost tolerance of 1°C lower than the 0°C reference would provide substantial benefit in most wheat production areas. Greater tolerance ((to 3°C lower temperatures) would provide further benefits in the eastern cropping regions but not in the west. Our results indicate that breeding for a level of reproductive frost tolerance that is at least 1°C lower than present should remain a priority for the Australian wheat industry, despite an average warming trend in the winter season.

Oxford University Press

Agricultural Systems Analysis and Modelling; Agricultural Production Systems Simulation; Agricultural Spatial Analysis and Modelling


Journal article - Refereed


Zheng, Bangyou; Chapman, Scott; Christopher, Jack; Frederiks, Troy; Chenu, Karine. Frost trends and their estimated impact on yield in the Australian wheatbelt. Journal of Experimental Botany. 2015; 66(12):3611-3623.

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