Researchers from the Polytechnic University of Madrid (UPM) and the University of Castilla-La Mancha (UCLM) have studied the impact that the predicted future reduction in cold temperatures, associated with climate change, will have on the economic viability of producing fruits in Spain.
The country is one of the largest producers of fruit, the leading producer of olives, and it occupies prominent positions in the production of other fruits, such as peach or cherry. These crops have something in common: they all need to experience a certain amount of cold in winter to achieve adequate production. The lack of winter cold leads to irregular flowering, a reduction in the quantity and quality of production, and prolongs the production time, which translates into economic losses.
After analyzing the economic viability of different varieties and species of fruit trees - specifically of seven of the most important fruit crops in the country: almond, cherry, plum, apple, peach, olive, and vine - in relation to their necessary accumulation of cold hours (which differs between the different varieties of the same species), the results show that, in the next 30 years, the economic viability of some varieties in areas that currently have a high production may be compromised, although varieties with low cold requirements would continue to be viable.
The situation is expected to be worse by the end of the century. Plum, almond, apple, and peach productions will be affected the most, while cherry, olive, and vine productions will be affected to a lower extent.
The study highlights the importance of developing local and flexible adaptation strategies, in accordance with climate projections for the near future. The development of new cultivars with low cold storage requirements would also help improve the viability of tree crops during the second half of the 21st century.
The study also highlights the importance of avoiding a scenario of high emissions that would have especially unfavorable consequences on production. However, the researchers stated, “it is possible to carry out an adaptation by moving the crops to adjacent areas or by carefully selecting varieties with adequate cold needs. The development of new varieties with less cold needs would also contribute to the viability of the crops.”
The results of the research, which discriminates between different categories of varieties according to their cold storage needs, is especially interesting for farmers, who can plan and carry out an adaptation in order to achieve an economically viable crop. It is also interesting for political managers when making decisions related to food safety.
You can read the study at: https://doi.org/10.1016/J.AGSY.2020.102961.