Agriculture A cool new way to spot frost damage

A cool new way to spot frost damage

A breakthrough imaging tool that can tell when crops have been damaged by frost is promising to help farmers make hay.

The technique could help producers identify which parts of their crop have been damaged by frost before that damage becomes visually apparent.

The team from The University of Adelaide showed they could successfully screen barley plants for frost damage non-destructively with imaging technology using terahertz waves, which lie between the microwave and infrared waves on the electromagnetic spectrum.

The project leader, Professor Jason Able from the university’s School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, said frost costs Australian grain growers about $360 million in direct and indirect losses every year.

“To minimise significant economic loss, it is crucial that growers’ decisions on whether to cut the crop for hay or continue to harvest are made soon after frost damage has occurred,” Professor Able said.

“However, analysing the developing grains for frost damage is difficult, time-consuming and involves destructive sampling.”

Professor Able said the technology could possibly be developed into a field-based tool, which could be used by growers.

“The technology as it stands could also be used by plant breeders to make more rapid and more informed selection decisions about the performance of one breeding line over many others,” he said.

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