Can northern Australia's mango industry handle a changing climate?

Northern Australia is synonymous with mangoes; for decades now, the Kensington Pride variety has dominated orchards and supermarket shelves.

Some farmers are already starting to change mango varieties to deal with warming climate. At the National Mango Conference in Darwin this week, growers have been shown long-range climate projections, which suggest the north's mango growing regions will get a lot warmer in the coming decades.

Mangoes are quite sensitive to temperature, requiring a certain minimum temperature for a number of nights to trigger flowering and then avoiding extreme heats which can affect production.

David Karoly, who heads up the Government's Earth Systems and Climate Change Hub within the CSIRO, said over the last 10 years the mango industry "had already seen temperature changes that were impacting mangoes".

"When we look into the future we seen even bigger [temperature] changes for the next 20 to 30 years," Dr Karoly said. "What happens beyond that depends on what Australia and the rest of the world does to limit climate change, but in a worst-case scenario what we see is that in 30 to 50 years from now, we would see temperature changes of two to three degrees warming and that would put at risk much of the mango industry in the Northern Territory [and other parts of northern Australia].

NT Department of Primary Industry mango researcher, Cameron McConchie, said he was confident though, that the industry could find other solutions to cope with a changing climate, other than just moving production down south.

Options include:
- Select existing adapted cultivars
- Develop new cultivars
- New chemicals that disconnect flowering from climate
- Develop cost effective structures that modify weather extremes to improve cropping

"In my opinion [the mango industry] has to be worried about climate change," he said. "I mean the number of cold nights will decrease and the number of hot days will go up, both of which will limit production."



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