Climate Change: Impact on Productivity and Quality of Temperate Fruits and its Mitigation Strategies
The North Western Himalayas have a unique and fragile ecosystem, where people are heavily dependent on their natural environment for their sustainance and livelihood and draws about 60% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from agri-horticultural system. The climate in this region temperate type mainly characterized by extreme cool winters and mild summers. It offers tremendous opportunity to produce high quality horticulture crops like apple, pear, peach, plum, almond, apricot, walnut and off-season vegetable, and ornamental crops. These crops covers an area of more than 500 thousand hectares and produces fruits of approximately 31 lakh tons. After independence there has been seen marked growth in area and production of these crops but on the other hand productivity has left far behind as compared to advanced countries. The low productivity is mainly attributed to several factors including environmental, physiological and biological. But over the years, environmental changes playing a significant role like occurrence of erratic rain and snowfall, droughts increase in temperature, etc. resulting in fast receding of glaciers. A significant change in climate at global and national level is certainly impacting horticulture and affecting our fruit production and quality. But understanding of impact of climate change on perennial horticultural production system and the potential effects on fruit quality has drawn a little attention of researchers. The current and future changes in climate patterns and presence of higher concentrations of anthropogenic gases in the atmosphere can have dramatic effects on yield, flavor and nutritional quality of fruit. These effects are likely to affect both growers and consumers. The projected increase in surface-air temperature can have both positive and negative effects on eating quality of fruit. The yield and quality may be inferior in fruit produced under water-deficit or high rainfall conditions. The staggered flowering due to inadequate chilling in temperate fruit crops can lead to low fruit set, nonuniform fruit quality and wider harvest windows. Fruit coloration may be severely affected because the biosynthesis of coloring pigments is strongly influenced by the temperature. The nutritional value and antioxidant potential of fruit may be affected due to decrease in skin pigments. The severity of certain physiological disorders in fruits is likely to increase, contributing economic losses to the growers. The projected increase in the incidence of insect-pests and diseases would further affect the fruit quality and consequently low pack-outs for farmers.