How do you like them apples? Long-term climate change may be altering the taste and texture of the popular fruit, according to a study of two Japanese orchards since the 1970s, published in Scientific Reports this week.
Previous research has indicated that long-term climate change has had an impact on apple phenology (variations in seasonal patterns of growth and activity): changes in temperature and rainfall have affected the timing of flowering, bud break and full bloom date, for instance. The effects of climate change can be hard to quantify, however, because of the influence of non-climate factors and the need for access to data from apple orchards where there have been no changes in cultivars and management practices for extended periods.
To determine whether apple taste and texture have undergone changes as a result of recent climate changes, Toshihiko Sugiura and colleagues carried out 30- to 40-year cultivation trials in two apple varieties (‘cultivars’) from two Japanese apple orchards, including the world’s leading cultivar, ‘Fuji’. The authors report decreases in acid concentration, fruit firmness and watercore development over time, regardless of the maturity index used to select harvest date. These changes may have resulted from the earlier blooming and higher temperatures observed during the maturation period, the authors suggest. With even earlier blooming dates and further temperature increases during the fruit maturation period, these changes in the taste and textural attributes of apples could become more pronounced, the authors speculate.
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