I saw this article as I was perusing the Puget Sound Wine Growers Group List that I am still a part of – http://www.wired.com/design/2013/07/inforpr0n-winemapz/ – and I was surprised to see that the premium wine growing regions in Washington State and California will at some point be too warm to grow great fruit.
What does this mean for the rest of the country and even the globe?
This year (2013), the USDA-ARS and the Climate Change Program Office put out a technical bulletin on Climate Change and Agriculture in the United States: Effects and Adaptation. The key messages from this document are:
- Increasing carbon dioxide (CO2), rising temperatures, and changes in precipitation pattern will affect agricultural productivity.
- Livestock production systems will be greatly affected by temperature stresses.
- Climate change effects on crop and livestock production for the next 25 years will be mixed.
- Climate change will make current stresses (e.g., drought, flooding, salinity) even worse on plants and animals.
- Agriculture is dependent on processes that support crop productivity including maintenance of soil and water quality AND quantity.
- Higher incidence of extreme weather events will have increasing influence on agricultural productivity.
- The vulnerability of agriculture to climate change is strongly dependent on the responses taken by humans to moderate the effects of climate change.
- We can adapt.
What was really interesting when I was with WSU in Prosser, WA – the viticulturist there examined possible increases in maximum temperature as a driver of climate change in the region. However, what we found was that while minimum temperatures were increasing, maximum temperatures were fairly steady over 85 years.
What impact might minimum temperature increases have? We could start observing more varieties with fruit set problems, like that of ‘UFOne’. With ‘UFOne’, researchers at UF found that when the night temperatures were over 55 °F, fruit set was poor. It could be that the pollen is being shed before the ovary is ready, or that pollen tube growth (on its way to fertilize the ovary) is arrested and the pollen never makes it to the ovary.
The warm night temperatures might also affect acid levels in the fruit – which are important in developing quality flavor profiles. Fruit with little acid often end up tasting sweet, but flabby and don’t linger very long on your palate, making for a bland eating experience.
I’ll end this with a picture of surface temperature projections through to 2099 in two different scenarios, one in which CO2 emissions are controlled (low) and one in which CO2 emissions continue to remain high. I am hoping that technology will help us moderate emissions so that we can achieve the lower temperature scenario for the future.