Climate Change Impacts on Winter Chill for Temperate Fruit and Nut Production: A Review

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Temperate fruit and nut species require exposure to chilling conditions in winter to break dormancy and produce high yields. Adequate winter chill is an important site characteristic for commercial orchard operations, and quantifying chill is crucial for orchard management. Climate change may impact winter chill. With a view to adapting orchards to climate change, this review assesses the state of knowledge in modelling winter chill and the performance of various modelling approaches. It then goes on to present assessments of past and projected future changes in winter chill for fruit growing regions and discusses potential adaptation strategies. Some of the most common approaches to modelling chill, in particular the Chilling Hours approach, are very sensitive to temperature increases, and have also been found to perform poorly, especially in warm growing regions. The Dynamic Model offers a more complex but also more accurate alternative, and use of this model is recommended. Chill changes projected with the Dynamic Model are typically much less severe than those estimated with other models. Nevertheless, projections of future chill consistently indicate substantial losses for the warmest growing regions, while temperate regions will experience relatively little change, and cold regions may even see chill increases. Growers can adapt to lower chill by introducing low-chill cultivars, by influencing orchard microclimates and by applying rest-breaking chemicals. Given substantial knowledge gaps in tree dormancy, accurate models are still a long way off. Since timely adaptation is essential for growers of long-lived high-value perennials, alternative ways of adaptationplanning areneeded.Climate analogues, whichare present-day manifestations offuture projected climates, can be used for identifying and testing future-adapted species and cultivars. Horticultural researchers and practitioners should work towards the development and widespread adoption of better chill accumulation and dormancy models, for facilitating quantitatively appropriate adaptation planning.


► All existing winter chill models are merely empirical proxies of actual chill. ► The Dynamic Model seems most accurate and is least sensitive to temperature change. ► Studies show severe historic and projected future losses for warm growing regions. ► Adaptation planning is crucial for managers of high-value perennial crops. ► Without reliable models, climate analogues can be used for adaptation planning.
Eike Luedeling
Scientia Horticulturae