Page content

Back to list

Growth despite climate change

Small green plants in the soil

Plant breeding plays a crucial role in adapting to climate change.

Fruit and vegetables are the future, at least if we are serious about providing enough food for an expanding global population and not only keeping people healthy, but the planet as well. The Planetary Health Diet (PHD) was conceived by the EAT Lancet Commission in response to how some ten billion people are going to be fed in 2050, given the ecological limitations of the Earth. In essence, the scientists devised a diet where fruit and vegetables make up around half of the daily food input, followed by cereals and plant proteins.

“According to the Planetary Health Diet, meat products are not off the menu“, said Nils Ole Plambeck from the thinktank Agora Agrar, speaking at the Fresh Produce Forumat FRUIT LOGISTICA. “However, if we simply ate less meat that would enormously mitigate climate change.“ Plambeck was convinced that fruit and vegetables played an important role in fighting climate change, and that both production and demand would increase in future.

Where are the winds of change?

“All the same, I can’t see gold fever breaking out among producers right now“, he added. Of course the higher temperatures, more frequent and more extreme weather events as well as changing rainfall patterns caused by climate change were affecting fruit and vegetable production. “We also have to concede that protecting the environment has its issues for us, and we need to find solutions there“, he cautioned. In doing so, he addressed both the political framework conditions and the producers themselves. Plambeck called upon the fresh produce business to make its case more forcefully to policymakers than in the past. “They have the product, the market and the skills“ – there was no reason to be on the defensive.

The example of the French producers’ association Blue Whale shows how producers themselves can develop solutions for cultivating climate-resilient fruit. The consortium is made up of around 260 family-run companies, mainly apple farms in four growing regions, where in each case the soil and growing conditions due to the climate are entirely different. Climate change already had France firmly in its grip – with significant temperature increases since the eighties, flooding, high winds and droughts, said marketing director Christelle Bertin, speaking at the panel discussion entitled ’Climate change – new paths and new opportunities’.

Producers explore sustainable fruit growing methods

That is why, together with five partners, Blue Whale has established the (Re)Generation Fruit consortium, in order among other things to research how orchards can be cultivated with less water and more sustainably, how soil quality can be improved, and how to reduce pesticide use by up to 50 per cent – all under the premise that farmers can continue to make a living. Twelve million euros are being invested in the project, with concrete results expected in 2028. “It won’t be easy“, Bertin admits. “But we have a vision, and together we will find a way.“

Tomatoes for high temperatures and long distances

Nunhems, a BASF subsidiary, is tasked with developing vegetable varieties which are either climate-resilient or thrive in controlled-environment agriculture (CEA). Currently, the company has around 1,200 vegetable varieties in its portfolio, from carrots grown in the field to greenhouse tomatoes, said vice president Maximilian Becker. Varieties developed by BASF include Arya, a tomato for the Indian market, which not only tolerates higher temperatures and consumes 30 per cent less water, but also withstands shipping over long distances and storage over long periods in a hot environment. Other projects focus on lettuce varieties and cucumbers which grow in a high-tech environment and taste good. BASF was also collaborating with numerous partners from the entire value chain, in order to develop new varieties to confront the latest challenges, he said. “This task is too big to be taken on alone.”