Through the educational materials developed and disseminated as part of this project (through a workshop style presentation), 50 tree-fruit producers and professionals in Washington State
- understood and analyzed the risk of potential decreases to winter chill,
- understood options for managing this risk based on practices in other regions, and
- are better prepared to address this emerging potential risk and consider it in their long-term planning.
Our evaluation survey had a response rate of 30%, and key take-home points are listed below.
Starting level of concern regarding the impacts of climate change on the risk for insufficient chill accumulation.
31% respondents were highly concerned about climate-change and chilling requirements before the educational material was presented. An additional 31% had a medium level of concern.
Change in responder concern as a result of the educational material?
40% of respondents said the educational information did not change their concern. However, it must be noted that more than half of this 40% were already concerned about the issue even before the material was presented to them.
Change in responder understanding of chilling requirements?
46% of the respondents had a strong agreement that the materials improved their understanding of the issue.
What mitigation actions would producers consider in light of changing chill requirements and accumulation?
Nothing - 20% respondents
Products like Dormax – 70% respondents
Evaporative cooling – 30% respondents
Replacing orchards with better cultivars – 50% respondents
Choosing a new crop – 30% respondents
20% of the respondents did not see a risk in this aspect to consider any mitigation actions. The other 80% indicated considering mitigation actions that range from management actions (utilizing products such as Dormax, or evaporative cooling) to more extreme adaptation considerations like replacing orchards with new varieties. This variation in actions is likely a function of their individual situation such as the type of crop (e.g. cherries have a higher future production risk than apples) and the individual's risk tolerance.
What fraction of years would you be comfortable not meeting required chill proportions?
64% respondents said 1 in 20 years. This was a key learning from a climate change education standpoint as this indicates a significantly lower risk tolerance than the metric commonly used in climate change literature -"safe chill" metric assuming that producers are willing to risk insufficient chill 1 in 10 years. While our sample is small and risk tolerance can vary widely across individuals, what this indicates in that there certainly are producers whose risk tolerance can be as low as a damaging event 1 in 20 years and educational materials would need to communicate risk for different levels of risk tolerance.