Scientists conduct research to determine impact of heat on wheat

Image credit: User: sioda

Victorian Government scientists are currently performing an experiment to determine the influence of heat on the quality and quantity of wheat.

Image credit: User: sioda
Image credit:
User: sioda

Scientists are exposing the wheat to artificially induced heat waves in a purpose-built chambers in order to better understand the impact of extreme weather conditions on yield and quality according to a media release issued by the Premier of Victoria.

Peter Walsh, the Minister for Agriculture and Food Security, said the Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) researchers are currently engaged in an experiment testing the influence of heat shock on crops on a temperature that exceeds the 35 degrees Celsius mark.

“Heat shocks at critical times of the plant life cycle reduce grain yield and quality, which then impacts on the amount of grain available for export or domestic markets,” Mr. Walsh said.

“Farmers face a dilemma between managing the risk of frost and the risk of heat wave damage at the vulnerable times of flowering and grain filling.”

“Our scientists at DEPI’s Grains Centre of Excellence in Horsham are researching better ways to help to understand the impact of heat waves on wheat production.”

“The researchers are subjecting plants to heat shock in special chambers for three days one week before flowering, which reduces seed set. They also use these chambers to create two heat stress events during the grain fill which will impact on grain size and quality.”

According to Mr. Walsh, the new findings will be combined with existing knowledge of frost impact on wheat and integrated into crop models, which should give the farmers a better chance to accurately predict the impacts of extreme temperatures and react accordingly.

Mr. Walsh said the Victorian Government is fully committed in helping the farmers become more productive and profitable in order to achieve the Government’s goal of doubling the state’s level of production by 2030.

DEPI Horsham based researcher Dr. James Nuttall said frost and heat impacts on crops were influenced by cultivar choice, sowing time, water availability, soil type and cropping region.

“Growers can manage frost by sowing late to ensure crops flower after the frost risk has passed. However this can also result in reduced yields due to high temperatures during grain filling, when crops are exposed to the risks of heat wave damage. For growers to make confident decisions about the reduced risk of weather damage in their area, they need to understand trade-offs between risk of frost and heat wave damage and relative impacts on crops.” Dr. Nuttall said.

According to him, it is very important for the Australian grain industry to better understand how climate volatility may impact crops.

“Once this is understood, scientists can begin finding solutions through breeding programs and agronomic management,” concluded Mr. Nuttall.