Image Upload

File size must be less than 2Mb

You must have online publishing permission or full ownership of this image

File types (jpg, png, gif)

  • Hero image
    IN THE KNOW: Agriculture Victoria senior research scientist Glenn Fitzgerald, left, and research scientist Alex Clancy assess data in front of one of the mobile trolleys involved in a research project.

World-first tech to measure cropping FATE

Assessing the ability of broadacre grain crops to grow in a climate of weather extremes is the subject of a project underway in Horsham.

Horsham, with a reputation as a ‘hot spot’ for research into elevated greenhouse conditions on crops, is now home to the world’s first Free Air Temperature Extreme, FATE, facility.

The State Government has invested $700,000 into FATE at Horsham SmartFarm on the rural city’s western fringe in efforts to ensure grain growers into the future remain productive and adaptable to climate change.

The research is based on mobile ‘trolleys’ fitted with radiant heaters that can simulate extreme weather, including heat waves and frost, to measure how cereal, oil and pulse crops perform under the conditions in open-field environments.

Article continues below

The FATE facility can apply specific temperatures at specific times to capture open-air data that supports development of grain-growing planning. It will also help farmers understand how environmental factors affect the response of new crop varieties, their resistance to pests and disease, and crop-production techniques.

The FATE centre will also provide researchers with data for use in computer-simulation models to forecast grain-growing options for regions without access to the on-ground technology.

Agriculture Victoria senior research scientist at Horsham’s Grains Innovation Park Glenn Fitzgerald said the project had been in a proof-of-concept stage.

“It is undergoing testing and engineering assessments and we expect to have it fully operational in 2022,” he said.

“We will have four of these trolleys, measuring about four and half metres tall with heaters we will be able to lower and raise over crops in the subject area. 

“It’s about better understanding how varieties of crops respond to heat waves, which with climate change are expected to become more frequent and severe.

“The project allows us to do multiple experiments in one facility. Being in an open environment, we can sow as normal and basically control the environment around a crop.

“Breeders, in developing crop varieties they believe are heat tolerant, will be able to put them to the test. They will have the option of saying ‘let’s put them under FATE to see if they are going to perform as we think’. We will also be able to test for different cross-management – whether it be through stubble retention, row spacing – that might impact on a crop’s heat tolerance and to test whether it can maintain yield into the future.”


Mr Fitzgerald said FATE could also assess the impact of frost on crop varieties using reference samples with targeted heating at night.

He also plans for the project overall to involve more than closed-sector research and provide demonstration opportunities to the public.

“We expect students and tours to come through and see how it works. Collaboration and demonstration is part of this – to inform the public what we’re doing,” he said.

Mr Fitzgerald said crops research in Horsham worked in an integrated way and often involved scientists from different disciplines.

“We are creating opportunities through technological development for scientists to work as teams. Working with the prospect of climate change can get complicated and this facility will address some of those questions that need answering.”

Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Victoria Danielle Green was in Horsham late last week to launch the FATE facility.

“This is an example of innovative technology being used to modernise and protect our agricultural sector,” she said.

“By backing experimental research, we are building a knowledge bank that will help Victorian farmers increase their productivity, profitability and sustainability in the face of extreme weather events.”

The entire December 8, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!