business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Boston Globe has a story about how we can add apples to the list of items being affected by climate change, as growers grapple with how and where to grow apples in this changing environment:

"In the Northeast, winters will be warmer and springs wetter, and the weather is expected to become more erratic. But many apples need an autumn chill to turn red and grow sweet. A warm fall makes them mealy and pale. Other dangers come with a cold spring. If a late freeze comes after a tree has already bloomed — and in the warmer temperatures occurring in the Northeast, that’s expected to happen — the cold will destroy the flowers. No flowers, no fruit.

"In fact, people looking for pick-your-own-apples this year in Massachusetts will find that many familiar orchards won’t be open. On May 18, a sudden freeze devastated fruit blossoms across the state, wiping out the crop.

"Growers worried about the future might start planting apples from warmer places like Italy, apples whose needs could match better with the future climate. At a fruit conference in February, an industry group called the Hot Climate Partnership and fruit company VentureFruit released an apple called Tutti, billed as the world’s first specially bred heat-resistant apple variety."

According to the Globe, "These are long-term projects, though: It takes years, often decades, to bring such traits into trees that university and commercial breeders could then use in their breeding efforts. We might need these traits sooner than we can have them.

"So far, growers are still mainly focused on producing a picture-perfect apple that will enchant grocery shoppers … Breeding for climate change resilience could introduce qualities that consumers don’t like or value as much."

Which means there is a lot of work still to be done, and the Globe speculates that it may take a disaster to really get the industry focused:  "Perhaps the first fall that every apple crop in the United States fails —Washington has a frost, New York has a drought, Michigan has floods — and the price of apples skyrockets."

KC's View:

One of the things that retailers have to do, in conjunction with growers, is to be utterly transparent in their communications to shoppers.  Tell the store.  Control the narrative.  But do it in a way that allows consumers to understand the challenges, rather than just be faced with sub-standard apples or empty bins.

I know I've whined in this space about how climate change is affecting olive oil, wine and beer production.  I'm slightly less concerned about apples - I don't eat raw apples.  (I have a mild but annoying allergy that causes my throat to get very sore when I eat one.)  But I do love - and eat - apple pie, and so I'm a little concerned about climate change might affect how those are made.