The home production of internationally-bred apples favoured by UK consumers might be increased in Britain in future due to climate change. A warmer UK climate has already resulted in earlier apple flowering and harvest, and is enabling late-ripening apple varieties to be produced across more of the UK. Now, one of the largest climate change crop impacts experiments in the UK is beginning at Brogdale Farm in Kent, funded by the National Fruit Collections Trust.
It seeks to learn how warmer temperatures and altered rainfall patterns, expected in future decades, will affect UK apple production - potentially allowing popular international varieties like Granny Smith (Australia) or Golden Delicious (West Virginia, US) to be grown more widely in Britain and increasing UK growers’ share of the UK apple market.
Professor Paul Hadley of the University of Reading, and an NFCT Trustee, said: “Climate change is affecting top fruit already, but this is given less attention by researchers than annual crops. Our data shows that apple varieties are now flowering on average 17 days earlier each spring than 60 years ago.
“There are pros and cons to changes to apple flowering and harvest times, but these are likely to change the face of apple growing and lead to different varieties of UK fruit on supermarket shelves in the UK. This research will enable both professional growers and gardeners to learn how to adapt production techniques to cope with possible changes in the climate, and also identify varieties which are suitable for the UK’s future climate.”