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Post Harvest Deficit Irrigation for Improved Resilience of Cherry to Climate Change, Louise Nelson, UBC Okanagan

With climate change, cherry production in British Columbia’s southern interior is expanding northward and to higher elevations. Expansion of agricultural capacity requires more efficient water use and consideration of potential for frost damage. We have shown earlier that postharvest deficit irrigation (PDI) (25% reduction in water applied postharvest) can reduce water use without compromising fruit yield or quality, but the effects of further reductions in PDI are unknown. By altering soil moisture patterns, PDI may have unexpected effects on the development and maintenance of cold hardiness. We are assessing the effects of two levels of PDI (25 and 50% reduction) on sweet cherry (Sweetheart cultivar) fruit yield, fruit quality and cold hardiness at five commercial orchards along a latitudinal and an elevational gradient in the Okanagan Valley. PDI was initiated in August 2019 and in the following three years we will monitor soil moisture, plant water status, photosynthesis, vegetative growth, pruning weights, fruit yield, and standard fruit quality measures before and after cold storage. We are monitoring bud cold hardiness and stem dormancy at regular intervals during the fall and winter, and will integrate these measurements into a predictive model for sweet cherry cold hardiness. We will develop a cost-benefit analysis of adoption of PDI using standard economic methods. These studies will allow us train two graduate students and to develop best practice recommendations to assist cherry growers in adapting to changing climate. Our collaborating producers also will present their perspectives on the significance of this research for cherry production.

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Post Harvest Deficit Irrigation for Improved Resilience of Cherry to Climate Change, Louise Nelson, UBC Okanagan

  1. 1. POSTHARVEST DEFICIT IRRIGATION FOR IMPROVED RESILIENCE OF CHERRY TO CLIMATE CHANGE Presentation to BC ACARN Workshop Dec 2, 2019 Louise Nelson, UBC Okanagan Campus Gayle Krahn, Jealous Fruits Ltd. Bart Fieten, Carcajou Fruits Co. Ltd.
  2. 2. Team Members • UBC Okanagan: • Professors Louise Nelson, Julien Picault • Future MSc students: Kirsten Bevandick, Elizabeth Houghton • Co-op student: Elizabeth Houghton • Collaborators: • Drs. Kirsten Hannam and Denise Neilsen, AAFC Summerland Research and Development Centre • Industry Partners: • Jealous Fruits Ltd. (Geen Family) • Carcajou Fruits Co. Ltd. (Carlson Family) • BC Cherry Association • Private Foundation
  3. 3. Background Importance of Sweet Cherry Production in BC • In 2017 BC produced 23,484 metric tonnes of sweet cherry with a farm gate value of $84.7 million1 • This represents 96% of the total cherry production in Canada1 • Cherry acreage increased almost 91% in BC between 2012 and 20171 • Access to new markets – e.g. China, South Korea, Japan • 1 seafood/statistics/industry-and-sector-profiles/fast-stats/faststatsbc_2017.pdf
  4. 4. Effect of Climate Change on Areas Suitable for Cherry Production in the Okanagan Crop suitability modelling for Sweetheart cherry in the Okanagan region over the past 50 years. Dark green areas are climatically suitable. Developed using the following combined criteria: chance of 90% blossom kill in spring, growing season length and absolute minimum winter temperature (Denise Neilsen and Scott Smith, unpublished data).
  5. 5. Challenges with Climate Change • Limited water availability • Lower snow packs, earlier spring runoff • Summer droughts • Increased water-use efficiency needed • Drip or micro-sprinkler irrigation • Timing and frequency of watering • Cold hardiness • Extremes of weather more common • Frost damage risk increases in fall and early spring at higher elevations and latitudes Photos Courtesy E. Houghton
  6. 6. Postharvest Deficit Irrigation (PDI) • Reduction in irrigation water applied following harvest • Studies in the Mediterranean region • Irrigation can be reduced by as much as 50% postharvest without affecting crop yield and quality in the following season • In the Okanagan an earlier study showed • A 25% reduction in irrigation postharvest had no effects on: • Tree water stress • Tree growth • Fruit yield or quality in the 2 years following implementation • What are the implications in the Okanagan for a greater reduction in PDI? • Is there any interaction of PDI with cold hardiness? • Will this vary with elevation and latitude?
  7. 7. Objectives • Long-term: • Optimize cherry production in BC interior under climate change • Evaluate potential for PDI to conserve water and enhance resilience of cherry production • Develop best management recommendations for cherry growers • Short-term: • Assess the effects of 25% and 50% reduction in postharvest irrigation on sweet cherry fruit yield and quality • Assess the interaction of PDI, latitude and elevation on sweet cherry cold hardiness • Refine cherry cold hardiness predictive model • Assess the cost/benefits of adopting PDI
  8. 8. Experimental Design • Establish 5 orchard test sites along a latitudinal and elevational gradient • Field trials established at 4 sites (Aug 2019) • A 5th site will be established Aug 2020 • Sweetheart cherry at all sites • Three postharvest irrigation treatments, 6 replicates of each • Current practice (control) (Drip/microsprinkler) • 25% reduction in water applied • 50% reduction in water applied • Soil moisture sensors installed at each site
  9. 9. Measurements • Standard soil analyses • C, N, P ,K, organic C, pH, EC and CEC • Tree water status, physiology and growth • Stem water potential, biweekly June-mid- September • Photosynthesis, biweekly June-mid- September • Leaf area, mid-July-August • Trunk diameter, annually • Pruning weight, annually • Fruit yield and quality • Weight, health, firmness, stem pull force, colour, SSC, TA • At harvest and following 6 weeks cold storage
  10. 10. Measurements • Bud cold hardiness • Bud clusters collected weekly or biweekly fall- early spring • Differential thermal analysis, bud moisture • Microscopic assessment of bud damage • Incorporate data into cherry cold hardiness predictive model • See poster by Elizabeth Houghton for fall 2019 data
  11. 11. Cost/Benefit Analysis of PDI • Working with Dr. Julien Picault, Economist, UBC Okanagan • Evaluate economic costs and benefits: • irrigation treatments (standard practice vs postharvest deficit) in relation to water conservation, plant growth, fruit yield, quality • Evaluate social and environmental value of PDI • Adaptation to climate change • Agricultural sustainability
  12. 12. Future Plans • 2020 Winter and Spring • Bud cold hardiness (E. Houghton) • Pruning weight (E. Houghton) • Cost Benefit analysis (J. Picault, K. Bevandick) • 2020 Summer • Tree physiology (K. Bevandick) • Photosynthesis, leaf area • Stem water potential • Fruit yield and quality (K. Bevandick) • Establish 5th site and initiate PDI (All) • Cold hardiness predictive model (E. Houghton) • 2020 Fall • Bud cold hardiness (E. Houghton)
  13. 13. Grower Perspective • Gayle Krahn, Horticulture Manager, Jealous Fruits Ltd. • Bart Fieten, Horticulturist and Project Manager, Carcajou Fruit Co. Ltd.
  14. 14. Thank you to: • Private Foundation • BC Farm Adaptation Innovator Program • AAFC Summerland Research and Development Centre • Jealous Fruits Ltd. • Carcajou Fruit Co. Ltd,