23. May 2019

Effects of climate change on fruit cultivation

The Earth’s climate has changed time and time again throughout the course of history; Alternations between hot and cold periods have always occurred, but these changes have been due to natural causes. Nowadays, in contrast, there is scarcely a doubt that humans have contributed in large measure to the greenhouse effect and, as such, to climate change. But what challenges do fruit growers face as a result of climate change, and what can be done about it?

Carbon dioxide pollution

In 20 million years, there has never been a higher concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere then there is today. If emissions do not fall in the coming decades, the summer temperatures in South Tyrol could rise by 5° by the year 2100. This temperature increase could mean less snowfall, which in turn would lead to less available water in the summer months.

Effects on plants and fruits

Between 1920 and 2010 the average temperature in the Alps increased by 1.9°C, and daytime temperatures in summer in South Tyrol have also seen a marked increase. The rainfall pattern throughout the year has also changed: Winters are drier than in previous years, while there is more rain in autumn. Extreme weather phenomena such as heavy rain and thunderstorms may also become more common, and could cause damage to orchards and vineyards. Spring and autumn temperature fluctuations could prove to be problematic for the quality of fruit. This climatic instability accelerates the breakdown of acid content and aroma compounds which leads to fruit which is less firm. The smallest of changes creates a knock-on effect which can be seen in a variety of areas. In agriculture and forestry, to name one example, rising temperatures encourages the proliferation of pests and diseases.

New pests and diseases in fruit orchards

A considerable number of insect species develop more quickly in higher temperatures, and appear earlier in the year. They are also found in regions which were previously too cold or protected by cold-barriers (e.g. the Alps).

Prevention, limitation and compensation

It is of vital importance that we begin to take climate change and its long-term consequences seriously. This includes, amongst other measures, diversification, the selection of resistant crops, pest, heat and drought protection and irrigation. It is also important to adopt working practices which ensure that plants can survive with less water. These measures can be assisted by a drip-irrigation system and systems for high-precision monitoring of soil moisture content. Effective tilling procedures are no less important: Good soil structure and coverage provide protection against drought and heavy rainfall. The aim must be to embrace the challenges of climate change, and to use them as an impetus to discover new methods. Climate change up until the present day alone is such that its consequences will be felt for millennia to come.


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