GLOBAL warming and the death of California Agriculture
It's the year of the apricot but not in California! In foggy ENGLAND where they never could grow this solar FRUIT before! In the remorseless march of global warming, a small golden fruit hanging from a branch may make 2005 and 2006 two of the most significant years for Britain. In early summer last year, that sweet sun-loving fruit from the lands of vines and olive trees grew on a branch in Kent, part of the first-ever commercial harvest of apricots in the UK. Sainsbury's has just marketed them in 250 stores. You think climate change isn't happening? The Sainsbury's apricots, with the Union flag on them, say otherwise.
The harvest was a small but notable progress point in the shift that climate change is likely to bring to a world in which, among much else, we may see fruits and plants from hotter climates flourishing in British orchards and gardens. There is no doubt that the climate is now warming steadily in Britain, as well as in the rest of the world. Since 1900, the average UK temperature has risen by about 1C, and the growing season has lengthened by about a month. Currently, the temperature is rising by between 0.15C and 0.2C per decade, but the rate itself will increase, and by the 2020s the climate will be nearly another full degree warmer than the average of 1961-1990.
According to the UK Climate Impacts Programme, very hot and dry summers of the sort Britain experienced in 1995 will strike in one in three years by the 2050s. Maximum temperatures in southern counties, such as Berkshire, which now reach about 34C (93F), will start to exceed 40C (104F). By 2080, South-east England could become on average 5C (9F) warmer in summer, making it as hot as Bordeaux.
Enter the apricots - forerunners, perhaps, of much more to come. Members of the rose family, and closely related to plums, peaches, cherries and almonds, apricots are by no means native to Britain. Their original home was China; they are believed to have been brought to the Mediterranean basin by Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC. They have flourished in southern Europe and the Near East, and in regions with similar warm climates, such as California and Australia.
Their key characteristic is early ripening, so they require fairly high temperatures in spring and early summer. Although apricots have long been grown in Britain in a warm corner of a cottage garden or on a sheltered south-west-facing wall, they have never till now been cultivated on a commercial scale.
But the 2005 harvest from Kent was substantial - about 1,200kg from an apricot orchard of 1,800 trees planted three years ago. Sainsbury's was surprised by the quality. "They were much bigger than I would have expected," says the company's product technologist, Theresa Huxley. "The colour was superb, a beautiful dark orange with a beautiful sheen; I thought they'd be quite pale. They had a very rich, perfumed, aromatic apricot taste, quite stunning. I think they should be one of our premium brands." Because so few insects are present to pollinate trees during the British winter and early spring, the growers worked with two self-pollinated varieties. But without the warmer seasons, the enterprise would not have stood a chance. "We know summers are getting warmer, and we thought it was worth trying," Huxley says. Sainsbury's isn't stopping at apricots. It has a project, under wraps for the moment, to grow kiwi fruit in Britain. Kiwis at present flourish in countries such as Chile, New Zealand, Greece and Italy, but Huxley's department is trialling a variety, which they think will also grow well in Kent.
And next, why not warm-weather nuts? There appears never to have been a commercial harvest of almonds in Britain, but The Infrequent Farmer, with a farm going organic near Honiton in Devon, is aiming to produce one.
On his 16 acres on the banks of the river Otter, The Infrequent Farmer has planted orchards with a difference. "I had to find a niche, so I went for a mix of old fruits that have been forgotten and new fruits that have never been tried." His "forgotten" fruits include quinces and mulberries, and almonds head the list of his new varieties.
"With the climate changing, it seemed a possibility," he says. After research and a deal with a French supplier, early this spring he planted 100 almond trees. "It will be next year before we know if we will produce them properly, and perhaps 2008 before they are fully productive, but I'm confident," he says.
He has a market lined up too, being a friend of the chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. "Climate change is obviously a serious worry, but while governments dally about the causes and possible solutions, farmers and smallholders are entitled to be entrepreneurial about the opportunities it presents," Fearnley-Whittingstall says. "I love the idea of English almonds being a West Country seasonal treat - for the time being, at least. If Mark can grow them successfully, and organically, I'll be first in line to grab a share."
Perhaps the strongest evidence of how the climate has already changed in Britain, in terms of growing things, is a wine grape: the pinot noir. This is the grape of classic red Burgundy, of Beaune, Vosne-Romane and Chambertin. It needs far more sun than the hardy white grapes that have been the backbone of the nascent English wine industry over the past five decades.
No one ever envisaged the pinot noir growing in England. Yet for several years now, it has been growing successfully on the south-facing chalk slopes of the North Downs near Dorking in Surrey - 25 miles from central London - at Denbies, the largest vineyard in Britain, producing a powerful, perfumed and delicious (if expensive) version of Burgundy, English style.
The owners of Denbies attribute their success with it directly to the changing climate. Yet not everything about growing new fruits in a warmer world will be plain sailing, warns Phil Hudson, chief horticultural adviser of the National Farmers' Union. "We should remember that what is predicted is not only warmer weather, but also more variable and extreme weather," he says. "And there is the potential not only for new and exotic fruits and plants, but for new and exotic fruit and plant diseases." He also thinks that achieving the quality consumers expect may be difficult, while some produce, such as citrus fruits, are unlikely ever to flourish in Britain.
Finally, he points out that the water supply is likely to fall. "Yes, we will have new produce, but we should not forget that climate change will bring risks as well as opportunities."
California was the largest and most diverse agricultural producer in the nation, growing half the country's fruits and vegetables, employing more than one million people, and covering a quarter of the states total land area. But, if global warming continues unchecked, rising temperatures and potential changes in precipitation patterns will pose serious challenges for California's agriculture and forestry industries. For example, higher temperatures will increase crop demand for water, while supply will become less reliable due to declining snowpack in the mountains. higher temperatures will also alter the range of crop-damaging pests and microbial diseases.
Global climate change may enhance ozone pollution, which harms plant growth and makes them more susceptible to disease and pests. the expected effects of continued temperature increases on a select set of agricultural and forestry products are presented below. these projections do not consider the effects of changes in water availability, the altered abundance and distribution of pests and diseases, or the varied effects of increased carbon dioxide levels, which could stimulate plant production and increase plant water-use efficiency but also promote the spread of weeds.
Fruit Trees A minimum number of chill hours (the hours per year where temperatures drop below 45°f) are necessary for proper bud setting for many fruit and nut trees. (peach, apricot, apple, cherry and almond.) For the first time,in 2006, crops suffered from no chill and a scorching three month heatwave that destroyed many of these crops.
Chill hours are rapidly decreasing in many areas of the state and are approaching levels insufficient for proper plant growth. if average statewide temperatures rise into the higher warming range (more than 8°f), the entire Central Valley is expected to approach, and in some cases surpass, critical thresholds for some fruit trees. if these thresholds are reached, some high-value fruit crops such as almonds, cherries, and apricots may no longer be able to be produced in California.
Read this grower's complaint: We had the hottest summer ever in the VALLEY to the north of Los Angeles California. My huge PLUM tree didn't set one single fruit in Spring. My apricot tree set fruit and I watered the tree daily during the July, August, September protracted HEATWAVE but the fruit dried on the branch. Even squirrels couldn't get a decent meal. I read that KENT ENGLAND had their first ever crop of apricots in 2005. WIll ENGLAND be the new CALIFORNIA. Well, what is CALIFORNIA GOING TO BE? HELL on Earth? I live only 22 miles north of LA. but we don't have the MARINE BREEZE Hollywood has. They are open to the sea on their entire coast and moist air cools the region. THE VALLEY is landlocked. Temps soar. Rents are cheap. But what does one care if they can't grow fruit. I WAS thinking of erecting a netting tent over the apriocot tree in JUNE. Tell your pals to buy land in Sweden. I hear Ted Turner and Jane Fonda bought land the size of RHODE ISLAND in PATAOGONIA at the South Pole. What do they know. Are they going to turn the south pole into an APRICOT orchard. Me? I'll be waiting at my supermarket for those KENT KOTS! And Patagonia peaches!
Wiping a tear, California Gardener.
That's not all, though. Timber global warming is expected to have wide- spread effects on the productivity and health of California's forests. forestlands cover 45 percent of the state, and commercial If temperatures rise to the medium warming range, pine plantations are expected to be 30 percent less productive. Rising temperatures have already significantly reduced the chill hours needed for fruit and nut tree development.
Forests such as pine plantations cover 16 percent of the state. if average state- wide temperatures rise
between 5.5 and 8°f (the medium warming range), the produc-tivity of mixed conifer forests is expected to shrink about 20 percent by the end of the century. the reductions in yield from pine plantations are expected to be even more severe in this warming range, declining by as much as 30 per- cent by the end of the century.
Dairies California's three-billion-dollar dairy industry supplies nearly one-fifth of the entire country's milk products. heat stress in dairy cows can lead to poor feeding, weight loss, and reduced milk production, which begins to decline at temperatures at low as 77°f and can drop substantially as temperatures climb above 90°f. By mid- century, milk production is expected to drop two to four percent as a result of global warming. toward the end of the century, a temperature increase into the higher warming range is expected to reduce milk production by up to 20 percent, more than twice the reduction expected if temperatures do not rise above the lower warm- ing range.
Wine Grapes California is renowned for its high-quality wines, produced throughout napa and sonoma Valleys, the Central Valley, and along the northern and central coasts.temperature is one of the most important and controlling factors in wine grape development. Unchecked global warming is expected to impair wine-grape
growing throughout the Central Valley by mid-century. By the end of the century, temperatures in the higher warming range are expected to cause wine grapes to ripen as much as one to two months earlier,
impairing grape-growing conditions and reducing grape quality throughout the entire state. Because most global warming emissions remain in the atmosphere for decades or centuries, the choices we make today greatly
influence the climate our children and grandchildren inherit. We have the technology to increase energy efficiency and significantly reduce emissions from energy and land use. We must act now to avoid the dangerous consequences of global warming and help ensure a high quality of life for future generations.
ALMOND CROP GONE! http://westernfarmpress.com/orchard-crops/drought-takes-toll-2015-california-almond-crop
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None of this is a problem if you create your own date orchard. As they take decades to mature and bear fruit, learn how to plant your date seeds now. http://www.fao.org/DOCREP/006/Y4360E/y4360e09.htm
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