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25th May 2020 | Agriculture, Climate Change, Press Releases

Recent cold weather effects on apple crops show need for climate resilient Agri-Food policies

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Recent severe frosts have seen some significant losses to this year’s apple crop in some orchards. Apple growers have been concerned about the effects of climate change for the past couple of decades, as trees come into blossom increasingly earlier.

The chairman of the Irish Apple Growers Association, Con Trass, said, “As growers, we have been watching as our trees begin their spring growth flush and blossom a few days earlier each decade, and that puts the plants at ever greater risk of frost damage. Coupled with more frequent late spring frosts due to the weakening jet stream ironically associated with warming in the arctic, it means that apple growers are experiencing more frequent frost damage and crop loss than twenty years ago. This is not confined to Ireland, as apple growers in North America, and across Europe, have experienced serious losses in each of the last few years. A few growers in Ireland are reporting a 90% crop loss, while fortunately most are less badly affected, and some are luckily unaffected.”

Green Party Spokesperson on Agriculture and Food, Senator Pippa Hackett, stated “The effects of climate change on food production here continues to become ever more apparent. In recent years, we have experienced a spate of extreme weather events from flooding, heavy snows, and droughts, all of which have had a detrimental effect on the prediction of all types of food. Milder winters bring concerns for pest burdens, and crop pollination, and this is evident with the loss to many of part of their year’s apple crop this year. Not only does agriculture need to play its role in mitigating climate change, it also need to adapt to its effects. Future agri-food policies must factor both of these issues into the equation, whether it is through improving biodiversity, or adopting the use of better, more resilient crops, grasses, and trees, which can deal with the changing nature of our climate.

Green Party Ireland South MEP Grace O’Sullivan stated, “It’s distressing to hear of orchards being impacted by the unusually severe frost that struck recently, and the resulting challenges likely to face apple-growers this year. It highlights the economic and other adverse effects that can be felt in the wake of erratic weather conditions symptomatic of climate change. Whilst it’s imperative that protection and support is given to local food producers, a simultaneous ambitious and transformative action plan tackling climate change, needs to be rolled out.”