Estimating effects of radiation frost on wheat using a field-based frost control treatment to stop freezing damage

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Triticum aestivum L.; frost; floret sterility; phenotyping; diesel heater; frost control


Agronomy and Crop Sciences | Plant Breeding and Genetics


Crop phenotyping experiments have long struggled to have a reliable control treatment that excludes frost and associated freezing damage to plants. Previous attempts used a barrier, such as a removable shelter or cloth to exclude frost. However, these methods were labour intensive and varied in their effectiveness. An automated diesel heater was used to protect field plots of wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) from frost damage. In 2018 and 2019 there were 22 and 33 radiation frost events from July to October at the field site. The heater maintained canopy air temperature above freezing (>0 °C) for the duration of the frost (~6–8 h). Heated plots had 2–3 °C warmer minimum canopy air temperatures. Cold and chilling damage was still present in heated plots and represented 20–30% floret sterility; freezing damage in non-heated plots accounted for an additional 10–30% floret sterility. Grain mapping revealed: grain set in the apical spikelets is most affected by frost damage; proximal florets (G1 and G2) contribute the most to grain yield, but distal (G3 and G4) are important contributors to grain yield when sterility in proximal florets occurs. These results demonstrate that a plot heater is a useful tool to study frost-induced freezing damage in cereal crops, by way of preventing freezing damage in heated field plots for direct comparison to naturally frosted plots. This approach could be used to develop improved damage functions for crop simulation models through a dose and timing-response experiment for natural frost incidence on cereal crops in field plots.



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