An automated plot heater for field frost research in cereals

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unfrosted control; wheat; field frost; field crop research


Agronomy and Crop Sciences | Plant Breeding and Genetics


Frost research to improve genetics or management solutions requires a robust experimental design that minimizes the effects of all other variables that can cause plant damage except for the treatment (frost). Controlled environment facilities cannot faithfully replicate field radiative frost processes, but field studies are limited by the reliability of field methods to exclude frost. An effective field frost exclusion method needs to prevent frost damage while not impacting growing microclimate or yield, and be automatic, modular, mobile, and affordable. In this study, we designed an effective prototype treatment with these features for field frost research that uses diesel heating. The effectiveness of the plot heater to provide an unfrosted control is evaluated by monitoring canopy temperature (CT) and air temperature during frost events, showing that these remain above zero in the heated plots when ambient temperature drops below zero. We find that the plot heater method can prevent potential frost damage at the plot-scale, while not appearing to have an impact on either plant development or yield components. This offers a potential new tool for frost field crop researchers to incorporate a plot-scale control into their experimental design.



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