4 Ways Climate Change Is Affecting Apple Production

Apple trees thrive in sheltered but sunny spots that allow the sunshine to encourage pollination and help ripen the fruit.

And the great news is, once established, apple trees don’t need much additional maintenance or care, providing they are kept in the right conditions and receive all the nutrients and water they need.

For most apples, including delicious Bramley apples, the fruit will begin to blossom at the end of spring, ripening through the warmer months, ready to be picked at the end of summer or early autumn.

However, those producing apples have begun to see a shift in growth trends over the last couple of decades.

This is because of climate change, which is already having an impact on the production of apples and this looks set to continue as the planet continues to heat up.

But what does this mean for the future of apple production?

Well, that’s exactly what we’re here to discuss.

The impact of climate change across the UK

In order to understand how climate change is impacting apple production, let’s first look at the effects it is having across the nation. This will give us a little more context.

In terms of temperature, the average temperature across the UK is on the rise and will continue to get hotter each year. This also means that hot sunny days will be more frequent, and it is less likely that there will be very cold winter conditions.

In terms of the weather, this means more sun and less rain in the summer, which will make the season last longer.

However, climate change also means that the winters will become wetter, and the likelihood of flash flooding is increased. This could lead to increased pressure being placed on water resources across the nation.

This is not the only severe weather that is likely to increase either. Droughts, heatwaves, gales and snowfall will also be on the rise as a result of climate change.

So, what does all of this means for apple production?

Well, interestingly, it’s not all doom and gloom on that front. Climate change will have both a positive and negative impact on the industry in the following ways.

1. Earlier blossom and harvesting

Let’s start with the good news, the changes in climate can lead to earlier blossoming times for the fruit, which means earlier harvests. This could have a positive impact on the quality of fruit and its storage potential. This is good news for producers who might have previously struggled with storing and preserving large quantities of apples once they were picked.

That being said until this happens, the results can’t be known for sure, and actually, early harvesting could increase the risk of damage from frost. That and the fact that some varieties of apples, such as Gala, could actually develop poorer colours, taste and texture as a result of being grown and harvested too early.

2. More variations can be grown

Warmer temperatures and altered rainfall patterns could potentially allow popular international varieties of apples to be successfully grown in the UK. For example, Granny Smith (Australia) or Golden Delicious (West Virginia, US) could be produced in the UK, increasing the nation’s (and grower’s) share of the apple market.

3. Less rainfall could require additional care

But as we said, it’s not all good news. Although apple trees don’t require huge amounts of water, the average tree still needs about an inch or so of rainfall every week to 10 days to keep it adequately watered. In the summer, there is going to be less rainfall, which could cause issues for the apple trees.

The result will be that those producing apples will be required to water them more often. This might mean they need to install additional water or irrigation systems or find better ways to get water to their orchards. This could make the upkeep of these trees more expensive and time-consuming.

4. Flooding could damage the trees

Finally, although the warmer months may yield less rain, wetter winters and flash flooding could have a damaging impact on the trees in the later part of the year.

After all, the roots of the apple trees need oxygen to thrive, and prolonged exposure to wet conditions and flooding could create anaerobic conditions that cause the roots to suffocate. This, in turn, could damage or kill the trees, reducing the number that blossoms at the end of spring.

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