Delayed chilling appears to counteract flowering advances of apricotin southern UK
Temperatures are rising across the globe, and the UK is no exception. Spring phenology of perennial fruit crops is to a large extent determined by temperature during effective chilling (endo-dormancy) and heat accumulation (eco-dormancy) periods. We used the apricot flowering records of the UK National Fruit Collections (NFC) to determine the influence of temperature trends over recent decades (1960–2014) on apricot (Prunus armeniaca L.) flowering time. Using Partial Least Squares (PLS) regression, we determined the respective periods for calculating chill and heat accumulation.Results suggested intervals between September 27th and February 26th and between December 31st and April 12th as the effective chilling and warming periods, respectively. Flowering time was correlated with temperature during both periods, with warming during chilling corresponding to flowering delays by 4.82 d °C-1, while warming during heat accumulation was associated with bloom advances by 9.85 d °C-1. Heat accumulation started after accumulating 62.7 ± 5.6 Chill Portions, and flowering occurred after a further 3744 ± 1538 Growing Degree Hours (above a base temperature of 4 °C, with optimal growth at 26 °C). When examining the time series, the increase in temperature during the chilling period did not appear to decrease overall chill accumulation during the chilling period but to delay the onset of chill accumulation and the completion of the average chill accumulation necessary to start heat accumulation. The resulting delay in heat responsiveness appeared to weaken the phenology-advancing effect of spring warming. These processes may explain why apricot flowering time remained relatively unchanged despite significant temperature increases. A consequence of this may be a reduction of frost risk for early flowering crops such as apricot in the UK.