Climate change can have serious consequences on fruit and vegetables. As temperatures rise and extreme weather conditions such as damaging rainfalls become more frequent, there are more “false springs.” In the past 5 years, we have had 2 record highs and 2 false springs with damaging late freezes. We have also had record high temperatures in February 2017.
When temperatures get hotter, fruit and vegetable yields can be reduced due to lower photosynthesis and reduced pollination. Heat also causes more internal defects and increased tissue damage to the fruit and vegetables.
Growers are challenged to find ways to adapt to the increasing temperatures. Managing mulch to reduce soil temperatures is one method to reduce the stress on many crops. The use of reflective materials or radiation blocks is also a way to reduce sunburn on fruits and vegetables. The use of wax reflective materials is also a way to help fruits such as apples keep their color.
The use of shade netting is also an effective technique to keep plants cooler during the hottest periods of the day. It has proven to be very effective for both tomatoes and peppers.
Another strategy is to use water-based cooling which can reduce the effect of heat on crops. Low water volume sprinklers have been proven to be successful during the hottest times of the day for plant cooling.
Growers are now altering the planting dates. Planting earlier in the spring or later in the summer allows growers to avoid the hottest times of the season and improve crop production.
The strategy that is most promising is to breed new, stronger, more heat resistant fruits and vegetables. This is a long term strategy and will require years of testing and experimentation.
Climate change can have a negative effect on both the quality and quantity of the fruit and vegetable crops. Lower production also leads to higher costs to the consumer. This is why it is so important to prepare now with longterm strategies to ensure our farmers can continue to have healthy and plentiful harvests in the future no matter what the temperature is.
Fruits and vegetables are essential to everyone’s diet. Eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables is an effective tool to protect against some types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Fruit at work is an awesome way to keep employees healthier, more motivated and it helps them maintain a healthier weight. Eat fruit and vegetables every day!