Possible impacts of global climate change on peach orchards in Gillespie County, TX
Plants are dependent on temperature, precipitation, and solar radiation thus climate change is expected to impact agriculture at a global level. Different crops and agricultural systems will be affected in different ways. Most studies are focused on staple or cash crops, however smaller crops such as fruit crops can also impact economies, especially at local level.
Peaches are very sensitive to a variety of climate and weather conditions. Factors such as chilling hour requirement, sensitivity to late frost, changes in precipitation regimes, and patterns of severe weather events have the potential of influencing the success of peach crops. Peaches are an important part of the agriculture in Gillespie County, TX. Located in the Texas Edwards Plateau, Gillespie County is responsible for a large percentage of the Texas peach production. Peach agriculture is also an important component of the local economy. The climate in Gillespie County is at the boundary between subhumid and semi-arid and it is characterized by high variability.
During this study I performed a climate assessment of the Gillespie County area, and I also examined perceptions and adaptation to climate change that are supported by federal, state, and local agencies. Temperature, precipitation, extreme weather events, and chilling hours availability were examined between 1971 and 2015. The values were compared to averages from 1941 to 1970, when data were available. The results show that the climate in Gillespie County is highly variable and it does not entirely follow global trends. Also, peach agriculture in Gillespie County already exhibits built-in adaptations to climate change which will enable it to successfully adapt to changing climate conditions as they are observed.