Climate Change

Apple and pear production is vulnerable to climate change and research is underway to help understand its potential effects and to find ways to reduce any negative impacts.

Many reports (IPCC 5th assessment report, 2014; Stern, 2007; Garnaut, 2008; Deuter, 2009) show that agricultural industries in Australia and overseas are likely to be adversely affected by predicted changes in climate and that, without adaptation, production losses are likely. Identification of potential climate change impacts and the early implementation of adaptation strategies will reduce the vulnerability of industries to future climate variability (Deuter, 2009).

While considerable research, development and extension have occurred within some Australian agricultural industries, few studies have been undertaken in the field of horticulture. A recent review found that there was little information on climate change impacts and adaptation options for pome fruit growers.

The project ‘Understanding apple and pear production systems in a changing climate’ aims to fill this gap.

Climate change impacts on pome fruit

Some impacts of climate change such as water shortages caused by changes in rainfall patterns and evaporation will be felt broadly across all agricultural industries. Other impacts will be crop and region specific. For apple and pear production systems these impacts include effects of higher temperatures on flowering, fruit yield and fruit quality.

Applethorpe Research StationThis project aims to broadly answer the following questions:

  1. What are the potential impacts of a changing climate on apple and pear production systems in Australia?
  2. What are some of the options for adaptation to reduce risk and take advantage of potential opportunities?

Apple and pear production systems are sensitive to temperature throughout the growth cycle. These crops are dependent on a dormant period which requires accumulation of chill during the autumn and winter to promote bud burst and flowering. During the subsequent fruit growth phase, fruit size and quality are affected directly by climate, through temperature-driven impacts on growth processes, colour development and sunburn damage.

Spring 2012 Applethorpe RS

This project will collect flowering, yield and fruit quality data for a number of commercial apple and pear varieties from three pome fruit growing regions in Australia (Stanthorpe, Qld; Tatura, Vic; Manjimup, WA). Initially, the data will be used to help understand the relationships between:

  • temperature and flowering time and quality, and
  • temperature and fruit yield and quality.

From this information, the potential impacts of projected changes in climate will be determined. The effectiveness of different types of netting, as well as variety selection will be assessed as potential adaptation options.

Netting demonstration site at MatijariDEPI Tatura field meetingThe project aims to engage with growers and industry to obtain input and feedback on the research through the formation of technical working groups. If you are interested in being involved please contacy Jenny Treeby on 03 5051 4537, 0428 446 013, or Jenny.Treeby@depi.vic.gov.au.

The project leader is Dr Heidi Parkes from DAFFQ. For more information contact Heidi on 07 4681 6126 or email heidi.parkes@daff.qld.gov.au.

Contact

Heidi Parkes
Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF), Qld
07 4681 6126

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Acknowledgement

This climate change work encompasses the project, ‘Understanding apple and pear production systems in a changing climate’ (AP12029), which is led by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Qld. The Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, Vic, and the Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia, are collaborating on the project that is funded by Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited using the apple and pear industry levy funds from growers and matching funds from the Australian Government. APAL supports this project in-kind by providing communication and technical support.