Researchers are growing apples in artificial environments to gauge the expected impact of global warming on the prefecture’s famed fruit.
The rare study is being undertaken by an eight-member team led by Daiyu Ito, professor of agrometeorology and fruit cultivation at Hirosaki University’s Agriculture and Life Science Faculty.
Aomori Prefecture, located on the northern tip of the main island of Honshu, just south of Hokkaido, is a major producer of apples in Japan.
The team is growing 48 apple trees of three varieties in various artificial environments, including one believed to resemble conditions that prefecture faces in the decades ahead.
The project has received 34.9 million yen ($310,200) in subsidies from the education ministry over five years through fiscal 2022.
“Can Aomori Prefecture survive as a producer of apples 50 years from now?” Ito asked. “If apple harvesting were affected negatively, how could we address the problems? We would like to find a solution and share our findings with many people.”
Ito also noted that many local farmers are concerned about the impact of climate change on the fruit, such as coloring and storability.
The research is under way at three greenhouses in the university’s Fujisaki Farm in Fujiaki in the prefecture. Greenhouse A offers an environment similar to outdoor air, except that it can shelter apple trees from rain. The temperature in Greenhouse B is always kept 3 degrees higher than the outside air. Greenhouse C is designed to keep the temperature 3 degrees higher and carbon dioxide levels 200 ppm higher than in the outdoor air.
In addition, each greenhouse is divided in two sections: one that provides an amount of “rainfall” 20 percent less than a regular year and the other with 20 percent more rain.
Predictions vary on what Aomori Prefecture will be like in decades from now. Ito believes conditions inside Greenhouse C will be similar to what the prefecture will likely experience at the end of the century.
Each greenhouse contains: six trees of the slow-ripening, red-skin Fuji variety; six trees of the fast-growing red skin Tsugaru variety; and four tress that produce Kurenai no Yume, a red-skin, red-flesh variety developed by the university team.
The researchers will collect data on the apples’ coloring, sugar content, storability, best time for harvesting, as well as water content and organic substances in the soil. The data will be used to analyze how higher temperatures and higher amounts of carbon dioxide affect apple growth.
Source: The Asahi Shimbun