Stem elongation frost damage in cereals in southern NSW

Malcolm D1, Brill R1, McMaster C1, Petty H1, Maccallum R1, Reeves K2 and Biddulph B3

1NSW Department of Primary Industries
2Curtin Uni/ SAGI WEST
3WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development


We conducted experiments in 2017 and 2018 to investigate the suitability of growing a number of different varieties of wheat, barley and oat varieties differing in phenology across multiple sowing dates in a frost prone landscape, near Wagga Wagga, New South Wales (NSW). Due to the severity and duration of frost events throughout the 2017 and 2018 growing seasons, stem elongation frost damage was observed in all sowing dates including the varieties with a winter habit. Stem elongation frost damage led to tiller death and delayed flowering for most varieties as many new tillers were produced after the frosts. The early and late May sowing dates (where the start of stem elongation has been delayed) from 2017 were the highest yielding overall followed by the mid and late April sowing dates in 2017 due to the crops exposure to less frost events during stem elongation and well-timed rainfall events late in the season. Barley was higher yielding then wheat and oats in 2018 from all sowing dates, with the oats achieving higher yields than wheat when start of stem elongation had been delayed in the early-May and late-May sowing dates. With an increase in stem frost events in recent seasons in NSW, growers need to be mindful to match variety phenology with sowing date to avoid frost damage during the stem elongation phase.


The Australian Society of Agronomy is the professional body for agronomists in Australia. It has approximately 500 active members drawn from government, universities, research organisations and the private sector.

Photo Credits

David Marland Photography Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, Charles Sturt University

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