Climate change could make Queensland fruit crops unprofitable to grow - ABC News

Rising temperatures mean Queensland-grown strawberries are in danger, experts say. 

Key points:

Cropping expert Paul Gauthier told ABC Radio Brisbane Breakfast host Craig Zonca that rising temperatures meant the popular fruit could become a thing of the past.

“There’s something about strawberries that if you reach a temperature above 26 degrees Celsius, they stop flowering, and that’s kind of why in Queensland we tend to grow them in the winter,” he said.

“And what we have seen when we project it to the future, by 2050 the temperature will increase by 3 degrees, maybe 4 degrees.

“And the problem is that the season is going to be shorter and shorter, and because strawberries take a long time to develop, to get the fruits, it’s possible that we may not get strawberries in Queensland anymore.”

It is one example of many crops — including apples and cherries — that could become unprofitable to grow in Queensland as temperatures continue to warm.

Man stands in front of a garden and trees with a blue shirt on, staring at camera.

“We’ve seen that all over the place. In the US it’s a major problem because most of the food is grown in California and we’ve seen the temperature growing, growing very high,” Mr Gauthier said.

“And the other issue is drought — drought is a big problem and water scarcity has been a problem for a long time in Australia.”

Solution needs funding

Mr Gauthier said the solution was protective cropping — using mesh nets or glasshouses, or investing in vertical farming to protect crops from pests, harsh weather, and rising temperatures.

“I can tell you what the temperature’s going to be in my vertical farm next week, in one year, in two years, in 100 years from now,” he said.

Plastic film-based structures side by side on a farm

“And that’s the perfect thing because I control all the parameters in the environment — that’s exactly what is great about it — it’s an investment for the future.

“And that’s why I think the government needs to jump into it and support the development of vertical farming.”

Much of the money funding vertical farming initiatives comes from private companies, but Mr Gauthier said governments would need to provide funding for farmers who could not afford to make the changes.

Tomatoes growing on vines in an indoor environment

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