Warm winters challenge the cultivation of temperate species in South America—a spatial analysis of chill accumulation


Winter chill accumulation plays a crucial role in determining the moment of bud burst in temperate fruit and nut trees, and insufficient chill can greatly limit yield potentials. To assess future cultivation options for such species in South America, we estimated winter chill through a spatial analysis. We used historical data (1980–2017) from 158 weather stations to calibrate a weather generator and produce temperature data for 10 historical and 60 future scenarios. We computed Safe Winter Chill (SWC, corresponding to the 10th quantile of a chill distribution) for the period 1980–2017 and for all historical and future weather scenarios and developed a framework to interpolate SWC for the continent using the Kriging method. To improve the interpolation, we applied a 3D correction model based on two co-variables (means of daily temperature extremes in July). Our results suggest important chill declines in southern Brazil and central Chile. By 2050 under the global warming scenario RCP4.5 (Representative Concentration Pathway), absolute SWC in these regions may reach a median of 18.7 and 39.6 Chill Portions (CP), respectively. Projections are most alarming for a strong global warming scenario (RCP8.5). In southern South America, adequate SWC levels of about 60 CP may be expected even under the RCP8.5 scenario. Our results highlight the need for climate change adaptation measures to secure temperate fruit production in important growing regions of South America. The procedure we developed may help farmers and practitioners across South America estimate future SWC to adapt their orchards to future challenges.