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    CHILLY: Mobile chilling chambers are used in a trial to investigate frost damage in wheat crops.  Picture: AGRICULTURE VICTORIA

AgLife: Remote, proximal sensing tools potential

Research as part of a Victorian Grains Innovation partnership has shown remote and proximal sensing tools could help growers rapidly respond to frost damage in crops.

The partnership between Agriculture Victoria and Grains Research and Development Corporation, GRDC, focused on a use of the tools to identify frost damage and investigate whether the findings held at paddock and commercial scale.

Agriculture Victoria chief research scientist James Nuttall said an estimated cost of frost damage to Australian dryland growers each year was $360-million.

“Currently, growers use variety choice, crop choice and time of sowing as part of their management strategy to limit the impact of frost,” he said.

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“Rapid estimation of frost damage on a spatial basis could translate to timely management decisions, such as zoning for crops to be cut for hay, prioritising further crop inputs, altered grain marketing strategies and improved planning of harvest logistics.”

Agriculture Victoria remote sensing scientist Eileen Perry said using natural field variation in frost at Kewell in 2015 found fluorescence indices such as the FLAV index – which is proportional to the flavanol content of leaf and fruit and essential for pigments – correlated well with frost damage in wheat. In subsequent years, artificial frost damage was imposed on wheat in trial plots using mobile chilling chambers to provide a backdrop of field wheat differentially affected by cold load.

“That enabled us to identify potential remote sensing indices targeting frost damage using hand-held sensors,” Dr Perry said.

“For artificial frosts, the wheat response was a two-percent reduction in grain number and yield per hour below 0°C.

“From that work, we found the reflectance indices photochemical reflectance index, PRI, and normalised difference vegetation index, NDVI, correlated with cold load, while fluorescence indices FRF_G and SFR_G correlated with cold load.” Researchers surveyed six commercial wheat paddocks near Jung in 2018 using an Airphen multi-spectral camera at 2750 metres above the ground in an effort to validate their findings.

“This work found significant rolling frosts with intra-paddock variation of time spent below 0°C, where time spent below 0°C correlated well with variation in grain yield across the majority of paddocks surveyed,” Dr Nuttall said.

“We also found PRI correlated well with grain yield.”

Dr Nuttall said the results indicated proximal and remote sensing tools had practical applications, such as rapid detection of frost damage.

“These tools might support targeted management, thus limiting financial losses due to frost,” he said.

“Scanning for frost damage across paddocks might be practical if several growers contract an aircraft equipped with a multi-spectral camera to scan multiple farms, making the process fast and affordable.

“Another idea is to determine whether active fluorescence has a role in practical proximal sensing applications such as rapid paddock scouting for frost damage.

“There could be potential to develop proximal sensing technologies for on-farm quality segregation of grain to enhance the grain’s export or market value.”

The entire December 18, 2019 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

The entire December 18,, 2019 edition of AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!