Climate Change – Australian Nuts

Australian Nut Industry – Climate Change

Future climate change is likely to present Australia’s nut growers with a mixed bag of resullts. Depending on region, nut variety, and even nut cultivar, some tree nut varieties in some areas, may be advantaged by changes in temperature and rainfall regimes while other regions and nut varieties may be adversely affected.

While the uncertainties of climate change impact on possible changing rainfall patterns and temperature changes, the key concern for the Australian nut industry is the potential for climate change to affect the winter chill factor. In the context of nut trees, winter chill is the number of hours trees are exposed to temperatures of between 0 and about 7 degrees celsius. Australian nut crops which may be affected by a reduction in winter chill timing and intensity include pistachios, almonds and walnuts.

Deciduous trees become dormant during the winter months. Once trees have received their required amount of chill hours the growth cycle begins again and the trees commence flowering. A reduction in wind chill hours can cause fluctuations in flowering times and hence more spasmodic pollination of the nut crop resulting in lower yields.

Research into means of addressing the impact of climate change, including appropriate cultivar development, is required to ensure Australia maintains it’s position as a key player in the world’s nut industry.

Photo: Walnuts in the snow

“Walnuts in the snow” – courtesy of Wellwood Wallace

Map: Climate change projections

Climate Change Affects Winter Chill for Temperate Fruit and Nut Trees
(PDF 1.95 mb)

Eike Luedeling, Evan H. Girvetz, Mikhail A. Semenov, Patrick H. Brown
PLoS One. 2011; 6(5): e20155. Published online 2011 May 24. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0020155
PMCID: PMC310123

Left: Included in the Climate Change PDF above – Modeled and projected Safe Winter Chill in South Africa, Southern Australia and New Zealand, for 1975, 2000, the middle of the 21st century, and the end of the 21st century

The following are references to climate change and the Australian horticulture industry:

  • Australia’s Farming Future (Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry)
    Australia’s Farming Future is the Australian Government’s climate change initiative for primary industries. It provides funding over four years to help primary producers adapt and respond to climate change. The objective of Australia’s Farming Future is to equip primary producers to adapt and adjust to the impacts of climate change.
  • Horticulture Climate Initiative (Horticulture Australia Ltd.)
    HAL, in partnership with industry, is implementing the Horticulture Climate Initiative – an across-horticulture response to this high profile topic. The Initiative aims to leverage relationships and utilise existing networks to assess the implications and identify potential research, development and extension priorities to respond to the threat of climate change.
  • The Horticulture Climate Change Action Plan (2009) (Horticulture Australia Ltd.)
    The Horticulture Climate Change Action Plan was produced as a component of the Across Industry project Australian Horticulture’s Response to Climate Change and Climate Variability. The action plan focuses on three areas: adaptation, mitigation and awareness and communication, and details the desired outcomes, priorities and actions that need to be implemented in order to increase the resilience of the horticulture industry into the future.
  • Climate Change and Variability (Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation)
    This program aims to increase the adoption of climate risk management among farmers and natural resource managers, improve seasonal forecasting and investigate greenhouse gas mitigation options for agriculture.
  • Managing Climate Variability Program
    The Managing Climate Variability Program has been helping Australian farmers to manage climate risk on-the-ground for over a decade, providing them with practical tools to incorporate weather and climate information into farm business decisions. The current phase of Managing Climate Variability – Phase II – runs to 2012.
  • Climate Adaption (CSIRO)
    The Climate Adaptation Flagship is developing strategies to adapt to the expected damaging effects of climate change. Researchers will analyse future climate changes in Australia, deliver strategies to manage their impact, and develop new ways to combat and even benefit from these challenges.
  • National Agriculture and Climate Change Action Plan (2006 – 2009 (Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry)
    The National Agriculture and Climate Change Action Plan takes into account the particular needs of agriculture and provides a policy framework that promotes adaptation to climate change and a practical approach to mitigation. The Action Plan also has a strong focus on building knowledge through research and development to provide innovative solutions, tools and frameworks that will enable farm businesses to deal with the challenges arising from climate change.