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How does the weather impact horticulture?

Published on October 12, 2020

The world of horticulture has always been dictated by the seasons. Although the astronomical dates and meteorological dates for the start of each season don’t change (apart from a couple of days), the behavior of plants, wildlife and weather can be slightly different every year – thus changing everything.

Over the years, Water shortage is considered to be one of the most common weather ‘threats’ to orchards and gardens. With the recent climate changes, a rise in the level of rainfall during winter has been observed, as well as drier summers, growers may need to plan to store winter rainfall and irrigate in summer.

Producers will need to adapt their planting and management practices to ensure survival of their orchards in the changing conditions and as well as for gardens.

Landscapers should use drought-resistant bedding and perennial plants like marigolds, petunias or geraniums, especially in south-facing or free-draining areas.

Greater threats

Production risks relate to the possibility that your yield or output levels will be lower than projected.  Major risks arise from adverse weather conditions such as drought, freezing or excessive rainfall at harvesting or planting. Risks may also result from damage due to insect pests and disease regardless of control measures employed, and from failure of equipment and machinery such as an irrigation pump.

While a warmer climate and the chance to grow new plants may be greeted by domestic planters, heritage gardens may face specific difficulties in preserving a traditional display of plants as climatic conditions alters.

Impact on plants

  • The development of a plant is controlled mainly by light levels, the accessibility of carbon dioxide, water, nutrients, and temperature – all of these elements will be affected, directly or indirectly, by recent climate changes.
  • Increased temperature will also increase transpiration from the plants which will lead to wilting of plant and eventually death. Hotter temperature also causes germination delay in some plants.
  • The way plants answers to drought conditions, combined with increased temperatures, is one of the greatest concerns to producers.
  • Yearly plants will often flower more quickly in conditions of water stress and will then set seed earlier. This will limit the flowering season and they will wilt and die.

In the future plants will be affected by climate change in a number of ways:

  • Increased carbon dioxide levels will increase rates of plant growth and perhaps development (bud burst, flowering and leaf fall)
  • Changes in temperatures are expected to bring an earlier onset of growth in spring and a longer growing season
  • Mild winters may reduce the yield of fruit trees, because colder temperatures are needed to break the buds
  • Increased temperatures will aid the growth of more plants from warmer parts of the world
  • Higher temperatures and decreased summer rainfall will cause stress, especially in plants with extensive, shallow, fibrous root systems
  • Annual moisture content of soils is likely to decrease by 10-20%.
  • Fungal diseases will thrive with the wet winter conditions.

Extreme weather events:

  • RAINFALL is considered as exceptionally heavy when the rainfall amount at or near a given rainfall station is highest among the past record for that particular month or season and also amount is greater than 12 cm.
  • FLOODS, A flood is an overflow of water that submerges land that is usually dry. Floods are an area of study of the discipline in hydrology and are of significant concern in agriculture.
  • CYCLONE, A cyclone is a large-scale air mass that rotates around a strong center of low atmospheric pressure. Cyclones are categorized by inward spiraling winds that rotate about a zone of low pressure.
  • DROUGHT, Drought means a sustained, extended deficiency in precipitation. Droughts are long periods of extremely dry weather when there is no enough water for successful growing of crops or the replenishment of water supplies.
  • HAILSTORM, it is one form of precipitation. Precipitation in the form of ice bolls with a diameter of greater than 5mm is called as hail.
  • HEAT WAVES, a heat wave is qualified when air temperatures of at least 40 C in the plains or greater than 30 c in hilly regions.
  • DUST STORM, it is a meteorological phenomenon common in arid and semi-arid regions. Dust storms occur when a strong wind blows, loose the sand and dirt from a dry surface. Fine sand particles are transported from one place and deposited in another.

The impact of extreme weather events

  • The increase in temperature would lead to higher respiration rate, modify photosynthesis rate and partitioning of photosynthates to economic parts.
  • Alters the phenology, shorten the crop duration, days to flowering and fruiting, hasten fruit maturity, ripening and senescence.
  • In tropical regions even, moderate warming may lead to disproportionate declines in yield.
  • Dehydration injury to plants, hermaphrodite nature of plants due to high temperatures.
  • Early or delayed flowering, variations in fruit maturity, abnormal fruit set.
  • Low temperatures would lead to chilling injuries, freezing.

Getting prepared to deal with weather changes

The measurement of temperature & moisture conditions is the first step to prepare the horticulture sector for developing strategies under climate change conditions.

  • Adapting and building resilience to climate change and reducing or removing greenhouse gas emissions where possible.
  • A detailed investigation on the impact of climate change on perennial crops is necessary.
  • Efforts should be made stronger to develop new varieties suitable to different agro- ecological regions under changing climatic conditions.
  • Climate smart horticulture can jointly address the food security and climate challenges.
  • It also needs new financing to enable the farmers to overcome barriers to adoption of new practices.

 

Click here to read more about Seasonality and Horticulture

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