The future of sweet cherry in Australia

May 27, 2014

Predicted variations in global climates have fruit producers trying to determine which crops are best suited to weathering future temperature changes. Extreme high-temperature events are expected to become more frequent, and predictive models suggest that the global mean surface air temperature will rise by as much as two degrees by the middle of the 21st century. Higher temperatures could have an impact on the duration of critical "winter chill" periods needed for successful fruit production, potentially altering growing strategies. According to the authors of a study published in the March 2014 issue of HortScience, the future of sweet cherry crops may be at risk in Australia. If climate change models are correct, the scientists say that these high-value crops could suffer. Sweet cherry needs adequate periods of winter chill to flourish: insufficient chill can result in poor bud development, sporadic and uneven budbreak, prolonged flowering and fruit development, and non-uniform ripening.

Penelope Measham and Nicholas MacNair from the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture at the University of Tasmania, along with Audrey Quentin from CSIRO Ecosystems Science, published the results of their experiments using two common sweet cherry varieties. The researchers established the chill requirement for two commonly grown sweet cherry varieties, 'Sweetheart' and 'Kordia', and then explored the uniformity of bud burst and subsequent impacts on fruit maturation in both varieties. They then conducted field trials in a commercial cherry orchard in Southern Tasmania, Australia from leaf fall in June until harvest the following February.

The team determined that the two sweet cherry varieties required different chill hours, and also found that 'Sweetheart' reached mean time to, and maximum total bud burst, faster than 'Kordia'; no significant differences in uniformity of bud burst were found between the two varieties. The results demonstrated that the success of initial and total bud burst increased with time at low temperatures and under natural field conditions. "The results we obtained by matching chill accumulation to tree phenology showed that cherry-producing regions in Australia will experience sufficient chill to support the production of the variety 'Sweetheart' with an increase in mean winter temperature of 1 ºC," stated corresponding author Penelope Measham. "Regions in Western Australia and Queensland will become marginal, or not suitable, for 'Kordia'."

The authors said their study demonstrates the complexity of quantifying chill in line with tree phenology, and shows the challenges for growers who seek to implement chill information. They noted that additional strategies for ensuring cherry trees meet specific chill requirements are needed for marginal areas.

Explore further: Central Valley sees big drop in wintertime fog needed for fruit and nut crops

More information: The complete study and abstract are available on the ASHS HortScience electronic journal web site: hortsci.ashspublications.org/c… nt/49/3/254.abstract

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Warming climate threatens California fruit and nut production

Jul 22, 2009

Winter chill, a vital climatic trigger for many tree crops, is likely to decrease by more than 50 percent during this century as global climate warms, making California no longer suitable for growing many fruit and nut crops, ...

What happens to peaches when the chill is gone?

Jan 24, 2013

The warmer-than-normal temperatures of 2012—the fourth warmest year on record in South Carolina—signal potential challenges for growers of the state's best-known fruit. Peaches need cold weather to produce flowers and ...

Climate change to deal blow to fruits, nuts: study

May 30, 2011

Climate change is expected to alter the global industry in fruits and nuts dramatically as tree crops such as pistachios and cherries struggle in the rising temperatures, researchers said.

Recommended for you

Brother of Hibiscus is found alive and well on Maui

15 hours ago

Most people are familiar with Hibiscus flowers- they are an iconic symbol of tropical resorts worldwide where they are commonly planted in the landscape. Some, like Hawaii's State Flower- Hibiscus brackenridgei- are en ...

Boat noise impacts development and survival of sea hares

18 hours ago

While previous studies have shown that marine noise can affect animal movement and communication, with unknown ecological consequences, scientists from the Universities of Bristol and Exeter and the École Pratique des Hautes ...

Classic Lewis Carroll character inspires new ecological model

Jul 30, 2014

Inspired by the Red Queen in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, collaborators from the University of Illinois and National University of Singapore improved a 35-year-old ecology model to better understand how species ...

Saving seeds the right way can save the world's plants

Jul 30, 2014

Exotic pests, shrinking ranges and a changing climate threaten some of the world's most rare and ecologically important plants, and so conservationists establish seed collections to save the seeds in banks ...

User comments : 0