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Creating your own Apple Orchard in 2050

What trees do you plant in your back yard? Imagine you’re in the agriculture business, more specifically you own and run an apple orchard.  Now, what do you consider when you choose what type of apple tree to plant? Planting a successful orchard requires a significant amount of time and planning. Considering the changing climate, what type of apple trees would you plant for a prosperous apple orchard in 2050?

Add questions for the students to consider both in terms of interpreting data in the case study as well as to apply to their own investigation for a different location (etc.).

The location of interest for the case study is New Hampshire, more specifically the southern region around the capital (Concord, NH).  The popular apple trees in New Hampshire are similar to those in New York State; for the case study the focus are two ‘New Hampshire favorite’ apple varieties, the McIntosh and Red Delicious apples. The table below is an organized collection of the data from the completed example of the student worksheet.  The data under the Apple Varieties (yellow) were found from the fact sheet.  The climate variables (green) were determined from the Northeast Climate data web site or the summary presentation file.  The last column provides a synthesis summary of the information between possible choices in the apple varieties and the climate conditions.

Case Study Table

The data above about the past and future data suggests that the McIntosh and Red Delicious will still be able to grow and survive the winters in NH will receiving adequate chilling hours. However McIntosh and Red Delicious apples will not be able to survive much longer in Southern New Hampshire due to the increasing hardiness zones and their given preferred hardiness zones in the apple factsheet. The lengthening of the growing seasons will allow for a larger crop, and reduce the need for hot houses that currently extend a shorter growing season. For outside orchards these climate changes will bring an earlier harvest date provided the day of the last spring frost comes earlier in the season. Making a switch of apple varieties from McIntosh and Red Delicious to Golden Delicious or Granny Smith will be provide a tree that can withstand the warmer winters and any further change in hardiness zones. The Granny smith apple will be able to withstand the warmer springs and any late frosts since it blooms in late May. The precipitation for the state of New Hampshire will increase but it will not increase enough to be too wet throughout the entire growing season. Apple growers will need to water their trees less, and watch for root rot more carefully. Looking at the hardiness zone map of New Hampshire in Figure 1 and Figure 2, the McIntosh apple and Empire will still be able to grow and thrive in the northern part of the state, where it was too cold for apples to grow before. This could become a new industry to the northern section of the state. 

Case Study Figure

Now that apple tree characteristics and climate change are understood, a new apple orchard is to be designed. The Johnny Appleseed Apple Orchard will be located on the shore of Lake Winnipesaukee, a large lake in the southern portion of New Hampshire. Here Granny Smith and Golden Delicious apples will be grown so that the new orchard will be able to withstand a changing climate. For a broken down process similar to the one students are asked to complete, see the completed student worksheet for the Case Study.