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NEWS
Warming Climate Threatens California Fruit and Nut Production
August 5, 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, according to a team of researchers from the University of California, Davis, and the University of Washington. In some parts of California’s agriculturally rich Central Valley, winter chill has already declined by nearly 30 percent, the researchers found.

The study is the first to map winter chill projections for all of California, which is home to nearly 3 million acres of fruit and nut trees that require chilling. The combined production value of these crops was $7.8 billion in 2007, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

Most fruit and nut trees from nontropical locations avoid cold injury in the winter by losing their leaves in the fall and entering a dormant state that lasts through late fall and winter. In order to break dormancy and resume growth, the trees must receive a certain amount of winter chill, traditionally expressed as the number of winter chilling hours between 32 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Each species or cultivar is assumed to have a specific chilling requirement, which needs to be fulfilled every winter. Insufficient winter chill plays havoc with flowering time, which is particularly critical for trees such as walnuts and pistachios that depend on male and female flowering occurring at the same time to ensure pollination and a normal yield.

For more information, visit the University of California, Davis website.


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