Since the wake of the increasingly erratic climate crisis, farmers have been hit with catastrophic changes. Just in California, table grapes are left rotting on the vine, the usually water sensitive fruit has been drowning from recent floods and storms. Apple orchards in New York are burning under the intense heat, and lettuce fields in CA and AZ are being overrun by pests that were once non-worrisome. Usually it takes a farmer years to decades to perfect a new variety of fruit or vegetable, considering weather, change in soil, or other factors. But now, immediate solutions and new crops are needed in order to carry on the production process.
The new variations will be constructed from many research areas, from molecular gene editing to the mining of global seed collections. Many of these new varieties are already available to consumers at the local market. Let's take a look at a few of these climate-defying products—
One solution is the heart-shaped Cheery Cupid modified by International Fruit Genetics. Usually, cherry trees need to undergo what’s known as “chill hours,” which are hours totaling a month where they live in 32 to 45 degree conditions. But the warmer the winters, the more sporadic blossoming and harvesting has become. Now this new variety only needs one third of the usual amount.
Conservational Melons & Avocados
Climate surviving melons have become rare in recent years, but researchers at Texas A&M’s Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center have developed two new varieties—the Supermelon and the Flavorific. Their root systems are bred to dive deeper into the earth, where they are drought resistant and can absorb more water.
Developed by breeders by the University of California, Riverside, the Luna avocado has been added to their roster of the world’s largest avocado genetic material collection. The trees require less water, an advantage in drier seasons. It also reduces harvesting danger as large trees take longer to go through.
Thornless Blackberries & Tolerable Carrots
The next breakthrough for scientists at Pairwise is creating seedless blackberries that grow on compact, thorn-free vines. These vines would require less water, land, and fertilizer. It will not only help crops in drought, but also land disruption and soil contamination.
In a drought, there isn’t enough water within the soil to dilute minerals such as salt, and crops like carrots can not grow successfully in high salt environments. One idea would be to marry the genetics between a commercial carrot and a wild carrot. It would produce a more heat-resistant variety but, according to Horticulture Professor, Phil Simon, would take over a decade to perfect.
Unburnable Potatoes & Cauliflower
As a regular cauliflower matures and gets ready for harvest, their green leaves naturally flare outward, exposing the white head, or curd. The curd is extremely sensitive to sunlight and if left under light for too long, it can develop brown spots. To prevent this, farmers have been folding the leaves back inward to cover the curd, but this process is tedious and time consuming. Now, plant breeders have developed the Destinica true-white cauliflower, which essentially doesn’t get sunburnt and is easier on the soil.
Successful potatoes grow in cooler temperatures with regular amounts of water, but climate change has posed a major threat for this nightshade. Researchers at the University of Maine are in contact with cultivators in South America to develop heat-tolerant varieties. They are also exploring ways to reduce pests and diseases.