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How can we prevent frostbite on early blossoming fruit trees?

Image credit: FlowerPictures.net

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Dragan Otasevic
Dragan Otasevic Dec 06, 2021
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Distribution
Early spring is often interrupted by a brief round of snow and frost in the northern hemisphere. The trees that come out of winter dormancy early are damaged by this. They cannot bear fruit that year. This means no cherries, plums, apricots, in entire regions.
Trees tend to be large/wide which makes it diffult and expensive to protect them with enclosure. What can be done about it so that fruit season doesn't depend on luck?
8
Creative contributions

DIY protection for individual trees

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Dec 06, 2021
A typical family has a handful of trees in their garden. Protecting them one by one is not prohibitively expensive and the materials can be stored/reused for years to come.
  1. Buy cheap transparent construction LDPE liner. It has to be thick/strong. Not the thin one that is used to protect internal surfaces while painting the walls. In my area, the thick liner comes in 2 or 4 meters width, 25 (or more) meters length.
2. Weld the sheets together so that the liner is wide and long enough to cover the entire tree. You could go with several options (1, 2). I like this one the most:

3. Cover the tree:
4. Leave a few big openings so that the bees can get in an out. You could cover the openings at night or during snowfall. The foil should touch the ground all around. Put stones around it to weight it down.
Monitor the weather forecast. If serious frost is expected, and this is your favorite fruit tree, how expensive could it be to leave a 500 watt convection heater under the foil running overnight?
From experience there are only a handful of such days that mess up the entire fruit season.
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Raising the temperature during the cold nights

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J. Nikola
J. Nikola Dec 06, 2021
The issue you mentioned is very important and, as my father is an agronomist, I can tell you there is no good solution how to prevent this. People tend to use conventional methods (such as the one Darko Savic proposed in his contribution). One of those conventional methods is to raise the temperature during cold nights. My grandfather used to do it by burning small piles of hay, wax, and oil, which burned for a couple of hours and protected the branches above.
The best example of this is how the vineyards in France are protected. They burn thousands of fires to keep the cold away in order to save their grapes from frost (check the pictures below). I am amazed how this can be economical.
Saving Bordeaux vineyards from the frost

[1]https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/apr/28/french-winemakers-candles-heaters-helicopters-save-vines-frost-bordeaux-champagne

[2]https://www.jioforme.com/global-warming-can-lead-to-increased-frost-damage-whatsapp/576338/

[3]https://www.instagram.com/p/B-d4Q9lHvFm/?igshid=32391zw1ww8r

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic10 months ago
Wow. It probably makes economic sense only for expensive brands of wine
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use of natural hormones to delay budding.

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Contrived _voice
Contrived _voice Jan 10, 2022
Concept
Apply artificially made hormones like gibberellin A3 (Gibberellic acid) to delay the flowering till later on in the year.
Why
Giberreic acid inhibits genes responsible for flowering in adult and juvenile flowering plants. mixing it in a non-polar solution and spraying it on the buds delays the budding time.
As a side benefit it's an organic chemical thus already exists in the plant, you'd only be increasing the quantity of it present.
How it works
Gibberellins are usually involved in natural processes of breaking dormancy in seeds and cell division in the early developmental stages of plants to accelerate cell division. In adult plants however giberellins take on new roles. One of these is floral transition and flower development which is talked about in great detail by Vinicius Costa Galvão, Markus Schmid, in Advances in Botanical Research, 2014 . A summary of this can be found in a study by The National Centre For Biotechnology Information which explains the exact process through which flowering is suppreseed using citrus fruits for reference.
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J. Nikola
J. Nikola8 months ago
Using the other hormones and their combinations
In the last several decades, it was shown that changes in the equilibrium of almost all known phytohormones are correlated with the onset, maintenance, and removal of dormancy in seeds, buds, bulbs, and tubers, but the results are often contradictory and inconsistent .
For example, abscisic acid (ABA) is shown to be required to keep buds at dormancy, while its continuous reduction resulted in the early release of dormancy. However, after foliar application of ABA to the whole plants, and not just the buds, there was no significant effect on prolongation of dormancy. Additionally, ABA can be conjugated by glucosyltransferase with glycosyl ester to form ABA-GE that is a sort of storage for ABA. It's interesting that its levels were lower than ABA during dormancy, but increased towards the end. Fine-tuning this balance with inhibitors of glucosyltransferase can help prolong the dormancy period.
Ethylene (ET) is not primarily known to have an important role in dormancy, but it was reported that ET-insensitive mutation (etr1-1) causes abolished formation of terminal buds and biosynthesis of ABA and delayed dormancy in European white birch and chrysanthemum in SD photoperiod condition. Also, inhibition of ET signaling by NBD led to increasing in ABA, leading to severely delayed dormancy release when ET signaling is blocked, suggesting his role in regulating other hormones' levels.
Cytokinins (CKs) are strongly implicated in the regulation of dormancy release, too. It was shown that high CK levels in potatoes promoted early dormancy release. When CKs were inhibited by CKX overexpression, dormancy was prolonged. Also, they seem to mediate the light signal, and contrary, light can regulate the transcription of these CK inhibitors . Taken together, these results suggest that CK is an essential regulator in the dormancy release and CK acts upstream of GA and ABA response pathways in stimulating meristematic activity.
Since bud dormancy initiation and termination are regulated by complex signaling nets, all these should be taken into consideration when creating a dormancy prolonging cocktail.

[1]https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1300/J492v05n01_06

[2]https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpls.2019.01136/full

[3]https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpls.2019.01136/full#B116

[4]https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpls.2019.01136/full#B34

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Contrived _voice
Contrived _voice8 months ago
J. Nikola I think I see a trend, different plant types have different reactions to the same hormone. It would be difficult to prescribe just one hormone for every plant. I went back to GA3 and noticed that although it delayed flowering in woody trees it has the opposite effect on perennial shrubs.
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic8 months ago
This sounds like a pretty cool direction. A few concerns:
  • if we manage to chemically delay breaking dormancy, how do we initiate it when the time comes?
  • if we have to spray stuff on the tree, won't the rain just wash it off?
  • what happens when rain washes the chemicals into the ground (root system)?
  • spraying chemicals is objectionable from eco/bio perspective. People don't trust chemically aided food
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Cooling the ground around the root system

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Jan 10, 2022
If it works, this could be feasible for a few plants, but maybe not an entire orchard/plantation. That would be too energy-intensive.
Drive probes into the ground and keep it frozen or at least below a certain temperature even though it's warm/sunny outside. Would frozen ground delay the plant from breaking dormancy?
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic8 months ago
Actually, a geothermal heat exchanger could be designed so that the pipes are buried around the orchard and even criss-cross between the trees. The pipes would not be deep as they usually are in such heating systems (on purpose). This would make the system less efficient for heating but it would keep the ground frozen around the pipe (around the trees), on the surface.
This way you get heat in your home and keep your orchard from breaking dormancy too soon.
When you know for a fact that the winter is definitely over, you stop using the geothermal system and switch to an air-to-air heat exchanger. The orchard thaws and breaks dormancy.
Still being able to heat your home from such a system would make it economically viable. As a side effect, you prevent your orchard from coming out of dormancy before the danger of frost has passed.
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Drone-mediated only-bud spraying for prolonged dormancy

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J. Nikola
J. Nikola Jan 14, 2022
Inspired by Darko Savic's session on prolonging the dormancy and Contrived _voice's idea of using the plants' hormones, I would suggest a drone-mediated spraying of dormant buds for the dormancy prolongation.
How would it work
Depending on the forecast and the plants, the spraying cocktail would be chosen and the drones set up for the intervention. Drones that use the AI would spray only the buds and prolong the dormancy period. That way effective but little amounts of the cocktail would be applied (protecting nature and saving money) and the plants would avoid the frostbite.
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Precise frost prognosis service

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J. Nikola
J. Nikola Jan 14, 2022
People fought the frost in the early spring for many years now and gathered a lot of knowledge. So, based on that, this is what we need for a precise frost prognosis, or, much better, a professional personalized frost prognosing service that alerts you to take action.
Why
  • General TV weather forecasts tend to be too general and may not apply to your microclimate
  • Your prediction of the frost could be too unprofessional and inadequate since it depends on multiple variables
For who
  • individuals loving their gardens and orchards enough to invest money to save products of their all-year work
  • big vegetable and fruit producers that depend on the sale profits
  • state companies responsible for food production
How would it work
A person or a company would call the service and arrange a meeting. They would exchange the information on the number of the growing fields, gardens, orchards and total yield size. Depending on this, the price of the service would be determined. When the first rate is paid, the service would start doing its job.
  • Collecting statistical data about the region (weather in the last several decades, extreme weather phenomena, rain season, sunlight hours, frost calendar, morning dew, etc)
  • Collecting on-field data about the microclimate conditions of the fields, orchards and gardens (slopes, closest water surface, etc)
  • Collecting data on the crops and plants grown in these fields (if they are more or less frost-resistant)
  • Set-up the on-field devices to track the temperatures and humidity around and on the plants or the plant buds if needed
  • Connect the region-specific real-time forecast data with the certain projects to enable better statistics, tracking and frost forecasting
The other part of the job would be to:
  • Do the genome sequencing to determine the exact molecular regulation of the bud dormancy initiation and release (also to help the R&D)
  • Create an emergency plan for the frostbite prevention that includes warming the plants during cold nights, cooling the buds during warm days of the early spring, spraying with dormancy-prolonging hormones or other novel techniques of the frostbite prevention.
  • The service would give a personalized real-time alerts through the app, via email or by consulting field visits
  • Suggestions for the plant selection (some plant species are more frost-resistant than the others) and treatments (winter preparation)
  • Suggestions to change plant locations based on their frost resistance, water and nutrition requirement
  • Help setting up the protection measures like pop-up "tents" or "warmers" around plants for the frostbite protection
Additional information
The service would also partner with insurance companies to help cover the possible damage to the crops, since the nature is unpredictable.
Research and development
The profits would be used to develop new devices and methods for the frost prevention and forecast.

[1]https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ece3.5659

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Protect early blooming fruit trees from frost by shaping them into a pergola and covering it when necessary

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Apr 02, 2022
Shape four early blooming fruit trees to grow into a pergola. Their trunks serve as pillars and branches grow only inward. If they bloom before the danger of frost has passed, cover them with foil to create a tent. Heat it slightly during freezing temperatures.

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Covering up the apex and keeping it cold

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Jan 11, 2022
After bud dormancy is broken by adequate chilling, apically produced growth-promoting hormones move down the branches and stem and provide the stimulus for initiation of seasonal cambial growth.
What if we cover the apical bud and the surrounding area in dark cloth so that it doesn't see the sun during the critical 1-3 weeks? Would that delay the plant from coming out of dormancy because the apical area wouldn't be able to function correctly and produce the required hormones?
In addition to keeping the apex away from light, it could also be keept cold by refrigeration.
It could be done via this tree apex cooling system.

[1]Theodore T. Kozlowski, Stephen G. Pallardy, in Growth Control in Woody Plants, 1997 - https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/biochemistry-genetics-and-molecular-biology/bud-dormancy

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General comments

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic6 months ago
This just happened again today in my area. Same as last year. Right when the fruit trees were in full blossom we got a load of overnight snow. The next few days will be warm. It was just enough to destroy the fruit season.
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