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Working group: Plant physiology

Understanding fundamental processes in plant and eco physiology are a pre-requisite for sustainable horticulture. Effects on horticulture of recent climate change include an increase in abiotic stress such as hail, heat and drought with adverse effects on plant physiology, fruit quality and yield.

Plant physiology

The 1-2 weeks earlier flowering of pome and stone fruit over the last 60 years in the Meckenheim fruit growing region highlights the pertinent risk of late frosts.

Pome and stone fruit require a cold period in the winter (chilling) for subsequent flowering in spring, which may be jeopardized in some years by the warmer winters as a result of climate change. Ongoing fundamental research aims to identify the most suitable chilling computing model for our region with temperate fruit crops and develop countermeasures.  

Reflective ground covers are trialed to overcome the incident light lost through the more wide-spread use of hail nets. Climate change also offers opportunities for horticulture; advanced and warmer springs provide a challenge to force sweet cherries in an environ-mentally- friendly way under plastic covers to obtain an early crop without use of fossil fuel.

Causes of alternate/biennial bearing are investigated based on flowering and yield data of the susceptible apple cv. ‘Elstar’ with and without hail nets.

Crop load management is one of these potential measures to combat or overcome alternate bearing and contribute to achieving the market-required fruit size and colouration. This is linked to yield prediction based on image analysis of young, green fruitlets in collaboration with CAU Beijing (project 5). Resource conservation includes our contributions to sustainability standards dedicated for horticulture such as the PAS 2050-1 (BSI, London).

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