Yield potential definition of the chilling requirement reveals likely underestimation of the risk of climate change on winter chill accumulation

Abstract

Evaluation of chilling requirements of cultivars of temperate fruit trees provides key information to assess regional suitability, according to winter chill, for both industry expansion and ongoing profitability as climate change progresses. Traditional methods for calculating chilling requirements use climate-controlled chambers and define chilling requirements (CR) using a fixed bud burst percentage, usually close to 50% (CR-50%). However, this CR-50% definition may estimate chilling requirements that lead to flowering percentages that are lower than required for orchards to be commercially viable. We used sweet cherry to analyse the traditional method for calculating chilling requirements (CR-50%) and compared the results with a more restrictive method, where the chilling requirement was defined by a 90% bud break level (CRm-90%). For sweet cherry, this higher requirement of flowering success (90% as opposed to 50%) better represents grower production needs as a greater number of flowers leads to greater potential yield. To investigate the future risk of insufficient chill based on alternate calculations of the chilling requirement, climate projections of winter chill suitability across Europe were calculated using CR-50% and CRm-90%. Regional suitability across the landscape was highly dependent on the method used to define chilling requirements, and differences were found for both cold and mild winter areas. Our results suggest that bud break percentage levels used in the assessment of chilling requirements for sweet cherry influence production risks of current and future production areas. The use of traditional methods to determine chilling requirements can result in an underestimation of productivity chilling requirements for tree crops like sweet cherry which rely on a high conversion of flowers to mature fruit to obtain profitable yields. This underestimation may have negative consequences for the fruit industry as climate change advances with climate risk underestimated.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to acknowledge the E-OBS dataset from the EU-FP6 project ENSEMBLES (http://ensembles-eu.metoffice.com) and the data providers in the ECA&D project (http://www.ecad.eu). The authors warmly thank Teresa Barreneche, Hélène Christmann, Jacques Joly, Lydie Fouilhaux, Noémie Vimont and Rémi Beauvieux for collecting the branches and collaborating on the phenotyping. The authors thank the INRA’s ‘Prunus Genetic Resources Center’ for preserving and managing the sweet cherry collections and the Fruit Experimental Unit of INRA-Bordeaux (UEA), for growing the trees and managing the orchards. Finally, many thanks to Alexis Berg for his help on the analysis of climatic projection data.

Funding

JAC was supported by the CEP Innovation and Aquitaine Region (AQUIPRU project 2014-1R201022971).

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Correspondence to Bénédicte Wenden.

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Campoy, J.A., Darbyshire, R., Dirlewanger, E. et al. Yield potential definition of the chilling requirement reveals likely underestimation of the risk of climate change on winter chill accumulation. Int J Biometeorol 63, 183–192 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00484-018-1649-5

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Keywords

  • Prunus avium
  • Sweet cherry
  • Flowering
  • Temperature
  • Phenology
  • Projections