Climate change will have a significant impact on horticulture.

Longer growing seasons and warmer winters will make horticulture more versatile and for example fruit growing will be possible in more northern areas. Commercial apple growing may be possible in the Finnish lake district.

A wider range of species and varieties

Vegetable farmers can start using varieties that need longer growing seasons, and new species, such as melons and pumpkins, can be commercially grown as summers get longer. Of perennial plants, pear, plum, sweet cherry, blackberry and grapevine are new potential commercially grown plants. The range of ornamental plants that can be grown in Finland may also expand significantly.

Greenhouse cultivation will benefit from milder winters and reduced need for heating. On the other hand, if cloudiness increases, the need for artificial lighting in greenhouses will increase, too. Changing climate conditions do not, however, automatically result in ideal conditions for outdoor horticultural production.

Long days in the summer and scarce light in the autumn might reduce the plants’ ability to adapt and the quality of the harvest. Wet and rainy autumns and future winters with little to no snow and occasional extreme cold spells will make it more difficult for plants to overwinter. Earlier onset of spring will increase frost risk, meaning that farmers will need to invest in expensive frost prevention technologies.

To prepare for the warmer climate, farmers and researchers must develop and test new winterhardy varieties.

Photo: Pixabay.

More challenges in plant protection

Longer growing seasons and warmer winters will introduce new pest and disease problems to Finland. In the future, pests might be able to produce two or three generations of offspring. Air currents and plant import may also carry new pests that can survive mild winters to Finland. The range of weed species are also constantly changing in Finland.

The increased risk of plant diseases is caused by rising summer temperatures and changing conditions in autumn and winter.

The problem is only expected to get worse, so it must be controlled with biological methods and new technologies. If new methods and technologies are not developed, the use of plant protection products will increase, which will compromise food safety and damage the environment.

Finland might become a more important food producer

Central and especially southern Europe will suffer from problems such as droughts, risings sea levels, floods and groundwater issues. Agricultural production will move to the north and east in Europe, and this means that Finland may have a larger role as a food producer in the future. Finland’s exports might include cereals, fruits and vegetables as well as meat and dairy products.

New solutions are needed

Luke monitors the occurrence and distribution of new plant pests in horticultural plants, develops biological plant protection methods and inspects new plant protection products.

The most important aspects in the cultivation of perennial plants are disease resistance and adaptation to climate conditions.

Foreign varieties that could thrive in Finland thanks to the longer growing season as well as tolerate less-snowy winters are also tested for growing in Finland.

New production methods suitable for the changed conditions, by using tunnels, mulches and tillage practices, will be developed. Luke is also studying the changing need for fertilisation.