Critical thresholds (tipping points) and climate change impacts/adaptation in horticulture

Research objectives

Horticulture in Australia comprises a large number of crops contributing around $7 billion annually to the economy. Crops are grown in many regions due to the diversity of micro-climates.

Temperature determines to a great extent the location and performance of the majority of horticultural crops.

Horticultural crops are particularly sensitive to temperature, most having specific temperature requirements for the development of optimum yield and quality.

Understanding the specific effects of temperature change on crops is a necessary step in providing growers with the decision-making tools to manage and adapt to climate change.

Because the majority of horticulture in Australia is irrigated, this research focused on temperature thresholds, to the exclusion of rainfall effects.

Specific objectives:

  • Understand the critical temperature thresholds for specific horticultural crops and production regions in Australia.
  • Identify commodities and/or regions that will be significantly impacted by increasing temperatures.
  • Assess the impacts and resilience of production systems and/or regions, and identify adaptation strategies to address these impacts.

Project duration

2009 – 2011


Information on temperature thresholds for all crops and regions tested during the study was assessed to identify adaptation strategies to cope with the predicted longer-term higher temperatures.

Case studies have been developed for the following crops (PDF versions will be published here as they come available):

The case studies summarise the findings from reviewing the literature and consulting industry.

They include:

  • crop production data – key varieties, optimum growing conditions, and seasonality
  • the current level of knowledge on temperature thresholds
  • projected regional temperature changes
  • discussion on how projected temperature increases will affect the crop
  • discussion on the capacity for growers to adapt through management practices

A range of temperature thresholds exist for a specific crop depending on the cultivar being grown, the location and the time of the year. Each threshold relates to a specific development phase such as seed germination, floral initiation, dormancy and head filling.

Each case study concentrates on one critical temperature threshold at a specific development phase.

Research contact

Mr Peter Deuter

Horticulture and Forestry Science, Agriscience Queensland

Phone: 07 5466 2222

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