UNEXPECTED low temperatures and subsequent frosts over the previous week have caused extensive damage to winter crops across southern Queensland.
Some Darling Downs farmers have labelled it the worst frost they have seen since 1997.
Landmark senior agronomist Paul McIntosh inspected crops from the eastern edge of the Darling Downs at Toowoomba and out to Dulacca and Glenmorgan.
He said frost damage was extensive in southern Queensland and assessments were ongoing.
“Yes it was severe and it was exacerbated by the fact that we had warm weather beforehand,” he said.
“Even the old fruit trees and the crops were getting confused; some of it was starting to flower and of course the older it gets, the worse the potential damage is for frosts.”
Mr McIntosh said it was a nervous time for many farmers.
“You need at least a week after a frost before you can make any decisions and people really want to know what the damage is,” he said.
“It’s not always that easy to pick frost damage. It could be a stem frost, or the flowers can be frosted and it can kill grain development at the later stages too, so it’s a bit of a mixed bag, depending on the stage of growth and the crops we’ve got around.
“We need to not rush into making any executive decisions about mowing, raking and baling.
"We need to let the plant recover and see what it’s going to do. Then we’ll know how much it will recover and how much we can get off it as a grain crop.”
Mr McIntosh said when identifying frost damage “two or three eyes were always better than one” and he encouraged growers to talk to an agronomist.
Despite setbacks to this year’s winter crop, he was optimistic that many wheat, barley and chickpea crops would recover.
He said crops recovering from frost damage needed sunlight, warmth, nutrition and moisture.
“Wheat and barley will generally have a chance to recover, particularly if they have good subsoil moisture,” he said.
"For tillering crops the dead, black and brownish leaves would disappear, not because they grow out of it but because other green leaves come over the top.
“Chickpeas, once again it’s a case of whether there’s enough moisture in the ground to regenerate flowers and pods – that’s the major thing because they don’t like frost or even cold weather.
“It’s all moisture driven though so rainfall always helps; some areas like the inner Darling Downs have had rain but western and central Queensland have been missing out pretty badly.”
Weatherzone meteorologist Rob Sharpe said the cold snap last week was below average in comparison to the temperatures experienced in June and July.
“In June and July most of country Queensland had warmer than usual nights but the month of August was below average, mainly due to last week,” he said.
“For example, the town of Oakey didn’t drop below freezing for all of July, which is typically the coldest month in terms of minimums.
“Oakey dropped below freezing four days in a row last week, from Wednesday morning through to Saturday morning.”
On Wednesday morning, the temperature in Oakey slipped to -5.6C, on Thursday it was -5 and Friday it rose to -3.
Other locations that experienced minus temperatures included Dalby and Roma, where it was -4 on Wednesday, -3.5 on Thursday and -1 on Friday.