Forecasting Optimal Growth Zones from the Cascades to the Apple-achians

Project Team: Northeast United States Agriculture Team
Team Location: Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia


Average growing season (May –- September) temperatures for Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina based upon 2003 –- 2012 Aqua MODIS LST data.

Average growing season (May –- September) temperatures for Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina based upon 2003 –- 2012 Aqua MODIS LST data.



Authors:
Dave Rasmussen (The State University of New York, New Paltz College)
Hope Albers (Christopher Newport University)
Irina Calos (The College of William and Mary)
Laura Hancock (Christopher Newport University)


Mentors/Advisors:
Dr. Kenton Ross (NASA DEVELOP National Science Advisor)


Past/Other Contributors:
Virginia Agriculture Team (Langley DEVELOP, Summer 2013)
Virginia Agriculture Team (Langley DEVELOP, Fall 2013)


Abstract:


Approximately 7,500 producers grow almost 100 distinct varieties of apples on 363,000 acres within the United States. Apple production is of particular importance to the southern Mid-Atlantic states, which are at the southern extreme of the optimal apple-growing range. For example, apples are the 15th-highest grossing farm commodity in Virginia, with cash receipts of approximately $54 million in 2012.


The U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map delineates growing zones based upon average annual extreme minimum air temperature at weather stations from 1976 through 2005, but this does not necessarily predict the most-ideal climates for apples. Several climatic factors are essential for optimal apple yield: chill hours accumulated during the winter, winter low temperatures, and growing season (May- September) mean temperatures. Plant Hardiness Zone maps were reproduced showing mean growing season, average annual extreme minimum, and average annual extreme maximum temperatures using the University of Oregon’s Parameter-elevation Regressions on Independent Slopes Model (PRISM) data sets for the years 2003 through 2012. The Mid-Atlantic States portion of the modified Plant Hardiness Zone Map was compared to Aqua Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) Land Surface Temperature (LST) data for 2003 through 2012 to create a Plant Hardiness Zone Map of mean growing season temperature based upon more current climate data that is also more specific to the local area.


Further, the Regional Climate Model 3 (RCM3) and the Coupled Global Climate Model 3 (CGCM3) utilizing the delta method were used to project future mean growing season, average annual extreme minimum, and average annual extreme maximum temperatures for the continental United States. Each of these three temperature parameters were forecasted for the years 2045 and 2065. The resulting maps will be a resource that horticulturalists will find useful in planning future apple and other flora-growing activities.



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