Climate change: comparing apples and… pears

May 14 / 136

Masters student Marco Calderon with his co-supervisor Dr Rebecca Darbyshire.
Masters student Marco Calderon with his co-supervisor Dr Rebecca Darbyshire.

A University-industry grant is helping Masters student Marco Calderon identify future climate change impacts on apple and pear production and build a career in research.

Masters student Marco Calderon, from Ecuador, received funding from the University and Horticulture Australia Limited (HAL) using the apple and pear industry levy and matched funds from the Australian Government. 

The grant allows him to study the flowering-temperature relationship in apple and pear orchards. 

Mr Calderon said understanding this dynamic is fundamental to developing climate change adaptation strategies to maintain the production of these fruits in the future. 

“We hope the research will generate information that can be used by farmers, industry and decision makers to enhance adaptive capacity in response to changes in climate,” he said. 

The timing of physiological processes such as flowering is determined by temperature and are therefore particularly exposed to climate change. 

Few studies have been conducted under Australian conditions, meaning there is considerable uncertainty around how fruit development may be affected under predicted climate change scenarios.

Mr Calderon’s research is supervised by Dr Rebecca Darbyshire, Research Fellow at the Agriculture and Food Systems Department in the Melbourne School of Land and Environment.

Dr Darbyshire said grants such as this were critical for building and maintaining research capacity in Australian horticulture. 

“This approach provides valuable, high quality research for the apple and pear industry, but more importantly it provides training for a young researcher and builds collaborative ties between industry and the university sector,” she said. 

Mr Calderon is using data collected from three fruit growing sites in Shepparton (Victoria), Applethorpe (Queensland) and Manjimup (Western Australia). 

For Mr Calderon the industry grant is a stepping stone into a research career, and a chance to contribute to new knowledge here and in his home country. 

“I would like to continue in research beyond my Masters, particularly in projects related to changes in climate and their effects on the dynamics of crops and ecosystems in general,” he said. 

“I’d also like to create synergies in the research of pome fruit trees between Australia and Ecuador.” 

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