Insufficient winter chill accumulation can detrimentally impact agriculture. Understanding the changing risk of insufficient chill accumulation can guide orchard management and cultivar selection for long-lived perennial crops including peaches. This study quantifies the influence of modeled anthropogenic climate change on observed chill accumulation since 1981 and projected chill accumulation through the mid-21st century, with a focus on principal peach-growing regions in the southeastern United States, and commonly grown peach cultivars with low, moderate, and high chill accumulation requirements. Anthropogenic climate change has reduced winter chill accumulation, increased the probability of winters with low chill accumulation, and increased the likelihood of winters with insufficient chill for commonly grown peach cultivars in the southeastern United States. Climate projections show a continuation of reduced chill accumulation and increased probability of winters with insufficient chill accumulation for cultivars with high chill requirements, with approximately 40% of years by mid-century having insufficient chill in Georgia. The results highlight the importance of inter-annual variability in agro-climate risk assessments and suggest that adaptive measures may be necessary in order to maintain current peach production practices in the region in the coming decades.
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