Climate change means smaller strawberries, higher costs for farmers
Being able to eat large, succulent strawberries may become a pleasure of the past, as the popular fruit is the latest victim of climate change.
- Warm nighttime temperatures contribute to the production of smaller strawberries
- Small strawberries are more expensive to pick
- Consumers may have to adapt to buy smaller fruits
It is not the cold that causes strawberries to shrink, but rather warmer temperatures.
And because smaller strawberries take longer to pick, production costs rise with temperatures – which means lower yields for farmers and could lead to higher cash prices for consumers.
Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) senior horticulturist Christopher Menzel said field tests at the Nambour Research Center have shown that as the air temperature increases, the size fruit was diminishing.
“With [climate change] even here in Nambour, records show that nighttime temperatures have risen by around 3 degrees over the past 50 to 60 years, which is quite significant, ”he said.
“The size of the fruit is very sensitive to temperatures.
Smaller fruits, high costs
For strawberry growers, the decrease in fruit is also likely to mean a decrease in wages.
“A plant with small fruits is much more expensive to pick than a plant with large fruits,” said Menzel.
“Towards the end of the season, it might take you four times [the initial time] pick the fruit earlier in the season. “
Brisbane Wholesale Markets Fabco store’s strawberry sales manager Katrina Carpenter said it was a problem she was already seeing.
“Because [strawberries that are] mediums are usually half the price of an extra large, you get a lot more medium fruit, so you sell a lot more. “
The study and anecdotal evidence matched research being conducted around the world, which Menzel said could mean all strawberry-growing regions would face similar issues.
“There have been studies from California that say without better varieties or new technology, yields in the next 50 years in California will drop about 10 to 40 percent from where they are now.” , did he declare.
Farmers will have to adapt
As climate change inevitably impacts strawberry production, Menzel is optimistic the industry will adapt even though it may take some time.
Research is already underway on improving heat-resistant varieties in Bundaberg, but it may take 10-20 years for selective breeding to produce a new option.
Until then, large strawberries may appear on the shelves a little earlier than in previous years.
Mr Menzel said that, for now, farmers could plant earlier in the year to always get the fruit of the desired size before the heat arrives.
“This means that they will get a greater proportion of their fruit before the warm weather arrives in early summer,” he said.
“And that may alleviate some of the effects of hot weather on fruit production.”