Climate change could ruin California fruit, nut crops

WASHINGTON Tue Jul 21, 2009 8:02pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Climate change could devastate tree crops such as walnuts, cherries, prunes and peaches in California's fertile Central Valley, researchers reported on Tuesday.

These kinds of trees require a certain amount of winter chill to be productive, and winters could be warmer than normal as climate change proceeds, scientists at the University of California-Davis and the University of Washington wrote in the peer-reviewed journal PLoS ONE.

The study projected losses of more than half of available winter chill by the year 2100.

"Depending on the pace of winter chill decline, the consequences for California's fruit and nut industries could be devastating," co-author Minghua Zhang said in a statement.

Imminent climate change is likely to make most of the Central Valley unsuitable for crops like walnuts, cherries, prunes and peaches, and could affect pistachios and almonds as well, the study found.

The Central Valley has nearly 3 million acres (1.2 million hectares) of tree crops that need winter chill, and that produce fruits and nuts valued at about $9 billion annually, the study said.

(Editing by Eric Walsh)

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