The Agricultural Food Research and Technology Centre of Aragon (CITA) is working together with partners from Germany, Morocco, Tunisia, and Spain on an inventory of cherry varieties adapted to the new climate conditions and resilient to the coming changes that are projected in global climate.
"The increase in temperature influences the entire cycle of plants," summarized Javier Rodrigo, a researcher in the plant science department of CITA. "In fruit trees, high temperatures during fruit growth can negatively affect the quality and if, in addition, there is a shortage of water, the fruits may not complete their development."
"The decrease of the winter cold can also have serious consequences since the trees need to accumulate a certain amount of cold to bloom properly. In mild winters the most demanding varieties may not cover their cold needs so they won't bloom normally, compromising the harvest."
"The flowering season wasn't as affected this year as in other years because the winter was colder. However, the intense frost in April, which took place long after the usual frost period, affected the flowering of later species, such as cherry."
"That's why researchers are looking for cherry varieties that yield good quality (size, flavor, firmness, and color), and that can serve to have a long harvest period, with varieties that ripen very early and others that ripen very late," stated researcher Ana Wünsch. Researchers are also working to obtain varieties with low cold needs to be able to grow crops in warmer areas and adapt to climate change. They are also looking for varieties with good post-harvest quality and resistance to cracking caused by rain during ripening. "Regarding the production, they are interested in varieties with good production, uniform production, self-fertile and late flowering, for example, to avoid late frost, as has happened this year."
"The varieties that are mostly cultivated come from a few improved varieties and therefore have a reduced genetic base, which makes them more vulnerable to threats, such as pests or climate change, and means they could have a lower adaptive capacity," Wünsch stated. "Having additional biodiversity is positive to expand the genetic base of cultivated varieties."
In this sense, the Spanish varieties of different regions, selected locally over the years, are genetically different from the rest of the cultivated material. They are more biodiverse, the researcher stated. "In addition, these local varieties have interesting characteristics for improvement, such as low cold needs or early or late maturation, and organoleptic quality that can help improve the current varieties."