Winter chilling in blackcurrants: adapting to climate change, through the development of technologies for improved dormancy release

Lead Research Organisation: National Inst of Agricultural Botany
Department Name: Centre for Research

Abstract

This project addresses the effects of climate change in the UK on blackcurrant production, where the trend towards warmer winters has adversely affected dormancy break and subsequent crop yields and quality, substantially reducing profitability. The use of existing dormancy-breaking treatments, developed for stone fruit crops, will be assessed for their efficacy in blackcurrant, their use optimised, and their mode of action evaluated at a physiological/biochemical level. From this, a new improved product for blackcurrant and 'best practice' guidelines for growers can be developed. Additionally, models predicting responses to the chilling environment for different varieties will be established, and this information will be used to direct the use of dormancy-breaking treatments to improve yield and quality. The project outcomes will directly influence future blackcurrant production in the UK, and will also be applicable to other perennial fruit crops, many of which have high chill requirements and are most productive after cold winters.

Technical Summary

This project addresses the effects of climate change in the UK on blackcurrant production, where the trend towards warmer winters has adversely affected dormancy break and subsequent crop yields and quality, substantially reducing profitability. The use of existing dormancy-breaking treatments, developed for other crops, will be assessed for their efficacy in blackcurrant, their use optimised, and their mode of action evaluated at a physiological/biochemical level. From this, a new improved product for blackcurrant and 'best practice' guidelines for growers can be developed. Additionally, models predicting responses to the chilling environment for different cvs. will be established, and this information will be used to direct the use of dormancy-breaking treatments to improve yield and quality. The project outcomes will directly influence future blackcurrant production in the UK, and will also be applicable to other perennial fruit crops, many of which have high chill requirements.

Planned Impact

The proposed work has both fundamental and applied aspects, and there is a clear programme for close linkage and translation between these categories. It will contribute most importantly to the improved and sustainable production of
blackcurrants in the UK, within the context of a changing climate. The development of a new dormancy-breaking treatment has very large potential impact across a range of woody crop species, and will also generate considerable income for the various downstream industries. On a more fundamental basis, the project will deliver considerable knowledge of the mechanisms by which woody crop plants respond to temperature, and how these can be amended in various climate
scenarios. This will be used to inform future blackcurrant breeding strategies, which in turn can provide a model for other crop improvement programmes. The impact on the public will be through the continued availability and diversification of
processed blackcurrant products, based on UK production. The overall impact of the project should demonstrate the effectiveness of the multidisciplinary approach of the work and the project team, leading to a successful translation of scientific developments to industry.

Publications

10 25 50

Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
BB/M026205/1 01/02/2015 31/01/2016 £230,772
BB/M026205/2 Transfer BB/M026205/1 01/02/2016 30/04/2019 £168,750
 
Description This project addressed the effects of climate change in the UK on blackcurrant production, where the trend towards warmer winters has adversely affected dormancy break and subsequent crop yields and quality, substantially reducing profitability. The use of existing dormancy-breaking treatments, developed for other crops, was assessed for their efficacy in blackcurrant, their use optimised, and their mode of action evaluated at a physiological/biochemical level. From this, a new improved product for blackcurrant and guidelines developed for UK blackcurrant growers Additionally, models predicting responses to the chilling environment for different cvs. was established, and this information used to direct the use of dormancy-breaking treatments to improve yield and quality. The project outcomes will directly influence future blackcurrant production in the UK, and will also be applicable to other perennial fruit crops, many of which have high chill requirements.
Key achievements are as follows:
1. A new more refined practical model for predicting whether winter chilling required has been satisfied and if rapid and even bud break can be expected and leading on from that if a bud breaking enhancing product is likely to be beneficial. The model will also predict likely timing of bud break which will help growers plan their crop management.
2. Improved understanding of the timing and conditions of the dormancy breaking treatments has been gained in the project. The findings indicate that altering the timing of application is not time-critical. However, early application risks bringing the crop into bud prematurely and predisposing the crop to frost damage. Therefore, we deduce that the best time to apply this treatment is at the natural start of bud-break (ex. 5% bud break) that can be observed by the growers in the field, without any complex GDD calculations.
Although it is difficult to do robust experiments to examine the effect of weather conditions at the time of application on efficacy, evidence from the efficacy of the different years of the project, show that dormancy breaking treatments are likely to be effective if temperatures are greater 10'C and remain so for a number of days after the treatment.
Manufacturers of several proprietary bud-braking products for other crops (which have proliferated during the time of the project) recommend application 30-45days before bud break. Our project has suggested that this very early application is less than ideal and driven by manufacturer fears of crop phytotoxicity.
3. A novel dormancy breaking nutrient product based on readily available components which growers can purchase and tank mix themselves has been developed in the project. The advantage of this is that is of much lower cost and more readily available than competitors.
4. We have comprehensively demonstrated that Erger is safe to use on several blackcurrant varieties in the UK at a wide range or early growth-stages. Prior to this project, the safety of the product on the crop has not been confirmed.
5. A field-based study of the metabolic and hormonal changes that occur in blackcurrants from dormancy to bud break and how these are impacted by the application of the industry standard product, Erger, was conducted during the project. Although this has not identified the molecular trigger-mechanisms and metabolic pathways that lead to dormancy breaking, a large database of metabolic and hormonal changes during the processes has been generated and will be submitted for publication in the near future. This will be a valuable resource for scientists worldwide to explore and develop an understanding of dormancy breaking in woody plants, including blackcurrants in the future.
Exploitation Route It was hoped that the project deliverables would be adopted by the UK blackcurrant industry and attendant science community very rapidly, and this has proved to be the case. The project is viewed as a great success.
1. Requirements and use of dormancy-breaking products were to be disseminated to the UK industry and attendant science community and this has been very effectively done.
2. A new dormancy breaking nutrient treatment suitable for use by growers was developed in the project; it is not sold as a proprietary product - its components are readily available and the growers can make the tank mix themselves. It is inexpensive. Use of this formulation has been very widely taken up by UK blackcurrant growers. Some growers are so enthusiastic that they treat their whole cropping area because of the improvement in bud-break and cropping. Most others treat varieties with a high chill requirement when needed. There was a significant winter chill deficit in spring 2020 following a mild winter. Widespread treatment with the formulation developed in the project resulted in a substantially larger tonnage than expected. It is anticipated that the treatment will have application in other woody crops where winter chill deficit can be a problem, e.g. cherries
3. The information and results from the project have been made available to UK growers regularly since the end of the project through a fact sheet on dormancy, update of the blackcurrant best practice guide, presentation at the LRS days, articles in AHDB soft fruit review mag and AHDB grower mag and the Agrovista UK tech days,.
4. The JHI chill model has been made available on AHDB and Agrovista UK online pest and disease models; the model gives chill accumulation predictions based on local weather data and for particular varieties. Agrovista UK is adding the model to the existing package offered to customers.
Further work is being done by the existing partners and by other UK blackcurrant growers to further improve the formulation, including the use of alternative, less costly wetters. Further ongoing work is needed to determine the winter chill requirements of the wide range of blackcurrant varieties being grown in the UK, including new ones released from the JHI industry funded breeding programme.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment

 
Description The project deliverables were adopted by the UK blackcurrant industry and attendant science community very rapidly, and the project is viewed as a great success. 1. Requirements and use of dormancy-breaking products have been very effectively disseminated to the industry and science community. 2. A new dormancy breaking nutrient treatment suitable for use by growers was developed in the project; it is not sold as a proprietary product - its components are readily available and the growers can make the tank mix themselves. It is inexpensive. Use of this formulation has been very widely taken up by UK blackcurrant growers. Some growers are so enthusiastic that they treat their whole cropping area because of the improvement in bud-break and cropping. Most others treat varieties with a high chill requirement when needed. There was a significant winter chill deficit in spring 2020 following a mild winter. Widespread treatment with the formulation developed in the project resulted in a substantially larger tonnage than expected. 3. The information and results from the project have been made available to UK growers regularly since the end of the project through a fact sheet on dormancy, update of the blackcurrant best practice guide, presentation at the LRS days, articles in AHDB soft fruit review mag and AHDB grower mag and the Agrovista UK tech days,. 4. The JHI chill model has been made available on AHDB and Agrovista UK online pest and disease models; the model gives chill accumulation predictions based on local weather data and for particular varieties. Agrovista UK is adding the model to the existing package offered to customers. Further work is being done by the existing partners and by other UK blackcurrant growers to further improve the formulation, including the use of alternative, less costly wetters.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment
Impact Types Economic

 
Description Innovate UK blackcurrant dormancy breaking Q10 consortium meeting 8 Aug 17 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Quarterly project review meeting
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Innovate UK blackcurrant dormancy breaking Q11 consortium meeting 7 Nov 17 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Quarterly project review meeting
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Innovate UK blackcurrant dormancy breaking Q13 consortium meeting 9 May 18 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Project quarterly consortium meeting reviewing progress to date and future plans
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Innovate UK blackcurrant dormancy breaking Q14 consortium meeting 20 Aug 18 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Project quarterly consortium meeting reviewing progress to date and future plans
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Innovate UK blackcurrant dormancy breaking Q15 consortium meeting 6 Nov 18 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Project quarterly consortium meeting reviewing progress to date and future plans
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Innovate UK blackcurrant dormancy breaking Q16 consortium meeting 5 Feb 19 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Project quarterly consortium meeting reviewing progress to date and future plans
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Innovate UK blackcurrant dormancy breaking Q17 consortium meeting 18 April 19 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Project quarterly consortium meeting reviewing progress to date and future plans
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Innovate UK blackcurrant dormancy breaking Q5 consortium meeting 10 May 16 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Quarterly project review meeting
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Innovate UK blackcurrant dormancy breaking Q6 consortium meeting 9 August 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Quarterly project review meeting
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Innovate UK blackcurrant dormancy breaking Q7 consortium meeting 7 Nove 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Quarterly project review meeting
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Innovate UK blackcurrant dormancy breaking Q8 consortium meeting 7 Feb 17 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Quarterly project review meeting
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Innovate UK blackcurrant dormancy breaking Q9 consortium meeting 9 May 17 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Quarterly project review meeting
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Innovate UK blackcurrant dormancy breaking hormone and metabolome results review 29 Aug 18 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Ad hoc meeting to review of results of metabolome and hormone studies obtained in project and to arrange publication and dissemination
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Innovate UK blackcurrant dormancy breaking project Business, Success and Growth meeting 13 June 19 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Business Success and Growth Meeting

Programme
Welcome and introductions (Rob Saunders)
Addressing the challenges of climate change - blackcurrants and insufficient winter chill, Innovate UK call, project, consortium (Rob Saunders)
Project mission and objectives (Prof. Jerry Cross)
WP1: Optimising the use of existing dormancy breaking products (John Hinchliff)
Work by Pixley Berries (Juice) Ltd (Edward Thompson)
WP2: Identify the underlying physiological/biochemical mechanisms by which dormancy breaking agents act (Dr Andrew Simkin)
WP3: Develop a new product/modify an existing product with improved efficacy and determine its method of use (Prof Jerry Cross)
WP4: Develop models to predict chilling requirements for blackcurrant cvs. to direct the use of dormancy breaking treatments (Dr Hamlyn Jones)
WP5: Commercial exploitation, Knowledge Exchange and economic benefits (Rob Saunders)
Overview of accomplished mission and thanks (Rob Saunders)
Monitoring Officer's report and discussion
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Innovate UK dormancy breaking Q12 consortium meeting 6 Feb 18 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Quarterly project review meeting
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018