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Earlier harvests as temperatures rise

13.08.2007
Scientists examining agricultural records from Germany have found that the timing of many events, such as flowering, ripening and harvesting of crops, is significantly earlier now than half a century ago, with an average advance of 1.1 to 1.3 days per decade. Their findings are reported this week in the journal Global Change Biology.

The scientists, from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and the Technical University of Munich, examined phenology records of 78 agricultural and horticultural events spanning 54 years, from 1951-2004. They found that these records of stages of vegetative growth, such as leaf emergence or fruit ripening, have advanced over time and were associated with warming temperatures.

The study also revealed that, on average, perennial plants (plants with a life-cycle lasting over 2 years) have a stronger reaction to changes in temperature than annual crops. The observed reactions are linked to climate changes rather than to changing agricultural practices but will nevertheless have implications for farming across Europe in the 21st Century.

Tim Sparks from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology said, "Farmers are already having to be more flexible in their work timetables, such as the dates for sowing and spraying crops. If the trend continues many events will become much earlier still, for example apple picking could be two weeks earlier and maize harvesting a month earlier by the end of this century."

Further information
NERC Press Office
Natural Environment Research Council
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Swindon, SN2 1EU
Tel: 01793 411727 or 01793 411561
Mob: 07917 086 369
Email: pressoffice@nerc.ac.uk

Marion O'Sullivan | NERC
Further information:
http://www.nerc.ac.uk

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