Throughout their life cycle, plants are subjected to many adverse environmental conditions including low light levels and periods of drought or extreme temperatures which can dramatically affect plant survival and limit productivity. In order to cope with such stresses, plants adjust metabolically and physiologically. Unanticipated variation in crop development is already in evidence in a range of crop varieties resulting in yield instability with significant negative impacts on the rural economy, environment and well-being.
Cherry and blueberry are prime examples where, depending on season, a condition known as Cherry June Drop can occur where unripe fruit fall from the tree to excessive levels, drastically reducing yield. Similarly in blueberry widely varying yield is achieved depending on season with factors such as bud initiation being important. Currently no methods exist to understand when and how a plant’s development has been disrupted or to characterise the key environmental signals responsible.
The lack of knowledge in these two areas severely limits the capacity for active crop management to optimise yield or to breed for future environmental resilience.
Project outputs will allow, for the first time, the ability to carry out in-field environmental monitoring and crop phenotyping to understand environmental factors controlling crop production and develop bespoke crop management systems that will mitigate the effect of environmental variation and ensure future crop yield stabilisation and for cherry to encourage new plantations to reduce imports.