California farmers warned to adapt to climate change
October 3, 2013
• Big changes may be needed in crops, methods, says report
• “California can expect to see increased average and more extreme temperatures”
As climate change heats up California, curtails the winter snowpack and lessens rainfall, Central Valley farmers need to be willing to change with the climate, says a new report from the state.
Climate change is already occurring in some parts of the state, the report from the Climate Change Consortium for Specialty Crops, and will have a major impact on the tree fruits and nuts as well as the row crops currently grown in the vast Central Valley.
Specialty crops include tree fruits and nuts such as almonds, pistachios, pomegranates, peaches, apples, cherries, blueberries, horticulture, melons and other fruits and vegetables along with nursery crops.
“California can expect to see increased average and more extreme temperatures; altered rainfall, snowpack accumulation, and snowmelt timing regimes; increased variability in both temperature and rainfall; and increased and more variable durations and frequencies of heat waves, droughts, and floods,” the report warns.
The report says that as the climate changes over the coming years, in some areas, certain crops will no longer be viable but at the same time there may be opportunities to grow these same crops (or new ones) in other regions of the state.
The report says farmers can take steps in their own operations to cope.
• Switching to an established heat-tolerant or low-chill tolerant variety
• New management practices that provide cooling to sensitive crops such as shade structures, intercropping, or spray materials, and,
• Alter planting and harvesting schedules.
“Row crops, such as tomatoes, are susceptible to loss by heat waves during summer months. On the other hand, tree crops are already being impacted by decreased winter chill during winter months. Many high value tree crop industries in California are based on varieties with medium to high chilling requirements, in particular cherries, pistachios and walnuts,” the report says.
But it says that for all of these crops, there are varieties or wild relatives that are less well-known with lower chilling requirements. “Thus, a candidate priority breeding program with a high probability of success would be winter chill requirement reduction in tree crops,” it says.