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Climate change and spring frost damages for sweet cherries in Germany

Abstract

Spring frost can be a limiting factor in sweet cherry (Prunus avium L.) production. Rising temperatures in spring force the development of buds, whereby their vulnerability to freezing temperatures continuously increases. With the beginning of blossom, flowers can resist only light frosts without any significant damage. In this study, we investigated the risk of spring frost damages during cherry blossom for historical and future climate conditions at two different sites in NE (Berlin) and SW Germany (Geisenheim). Two phenological models, developed on the basis of phenological observations at the experimental sweet cherry orchard in Berlin-Dahlem and validated for endodormancy release and for warmer climate conditions (already published), were used to calculate the beginning of cherry blossom in Geisenheim, 1951–2015 (external model validation). Afterwards, on the basis of a statistical regionalisation model WETTREG (RCP 8.5), the frequency of frost during cherry blossom was calculated at both sites for historical (1971–2000) and future climate conditions (2011–2100). From these data, we derived the final flower damage, defined as the percentage of frozen flowers due to single or multiple frost events during blossom. The results showed that rising temperatures in this century can premature the beginning of cherry blossom up to 17 days at both sites, independent of the used phenological model. The frequency and strength of frost was characterised by a high temporal and local variability. For both sites, no significant increase in frost frequency and frost damage during blossom was found. In Geisenheim, frost damages significantly decreased from the middle of the twenty-first century. This study additionally emphasises the importance of reliable phenological models which not only work for current but also for changed climate conditions and at different sites. The date of endodormancy release should always be a known parameter in chilling/forcing models.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) in the project ‘Progress in Phenological Modelling on the Basis of Metabolomic Approaches’ by the grant CH 228/5-1. We are very thankful to Mrs. Christine Polte-Rudolph and Mrs. Carola Grundmann from the German Weather Service for the long-term phenological observation in Geisenheim and some hints on these data. We are also very grateful to Arne Spekart (Climate & Environment Consulting Potsdam GmbH) and Frank Kreienkamp (German Weather Service), who provided us the up-to-date WETTREG calculations (version 2017).

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Chmielewski, FM., Götz, KP., Weber, K.C. et al. Climate change and spring frost damages for sweet cherries in Germany. Int J Biometeorol 62, 217–228 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00484-017-1443-9

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Keywords

  • Late frost
  • Flower damage
  • Prunus avium L.
  • Phenological models
  • Climate scenarios