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Assessing risks from climate change and variability in perennial horticultural crops.

Neilsen, D., Neilsen, G.H., Cannon, A.J., Taylor, B., Van der Gulik, T.W., Smith, S., and Losso, I. (2013). "Assessing risks from climate change and variability in perennial horticultural crops.", Acta Horticulturae (ISHS), 984, pp. 87-100.


Potential effects of climate change on agriculture have been better documented for agronomic than for horticultural crops. Yet, perennial horticultural crops must withstand year-round, climate-related biotic and abiotic stresses and often require high economic outlay for establishment rendering producers vulnerable to failure. Previously, research focused on assessing the effects of changing temperatures and precipitation on a large scale – continental or even global. More recently, the emphasis has changed to examining effects at the regional scale, which is more appropriate for both producers and regional planning. Gradual climate change is expected to affect the geographic range of crops, pests and diseases. However, the suitability of specific location for crops will be determined by the frequency of extreme events (e.g. droughts, low and high temperatures) and variability in growing conditions, both of which are expected to increase in response to global warming. Assessing the risks associated with climate change, variability and extreme events requires both the development of models for horticultural production systems that are responsive to climate variables at an appropriate temporal and spatial scale and also knowledge of the threshold conditions which limit crop success. Examples of approaches for assessing the effects of climate change on crop suitability and water resources and to the development of tools to assist adaptation are given. Building resilience may lie in careful assessment of crop suitability or designing new crops and management practices to withstand climate extremes. Equally important is communicating this knowledge to producers, planners and policy makers. This is particularly the case with respect to the preservation of land and water resources which will be required in the future to meet global food requirements.

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