Potential Climate Change Impacts on South American and South African Citrus

Daniel CooperInternational, Weather

Photo by Rodion Kutsaiev

Like most speakers in a recent World Citrus Organisation (WCO) climate change discussion, those addressing South America and South Africa focused on potential impacts rather than already observed impacts.


“Whether we are negationist or pro-climate change, we should agree that something wrong is occurring in our sector,” stated a slide from Oscar Salgado, an agricultural engineer and fruit consultant addressing climate change in South America.

He reported that weather issues in South America “are more often extreme and intense.”

Salgado stated that climate change impacts on South American citrus might include:

  • Drought and changes in rain patterns
  • A pattern of high humidity and cloudy periods
  • Early and late frost
  • A lack of chilling hours
  • A more aggressive condition for disease
  • Skin color and external quality issues
  • Reduction in quality and postharvest shelf life
  • Drought
  • Heat waves during fruit set
  • Heavy rains and flooding during winter
  • Hail

Some postharvest citrus issues Salgado foresees as a result of climate change include:

  • Hydric stress generating fruit with accelerated senescence and therefore more prone to diseases and physiological disorders
  • Deterioration in quality due to sun damage
  • Cold, rain and heat events outside of the normal season which generate quality and external and internal condition problems
  • More aggressive fungal diseases 

Salgado stated, “It might be that the Mediterranean climate areas are the most susceptible” to climate change.

Learn more about climate change impacts in the Mediterranean citrus-growing region, as reported in the WCO presentation.


Stephanie Midgley of the Western Cape (South Africa) Department of Agriculture said climate trends in South Africa include temperature increases across most of the country and in all seasons. But she said some uncertainty remains regarding climate change, “especially with regard to changes in rainfall.” She reported that South Africa has experienced “increasingly variable and unpredictable weather.”

“Drought is expected to increase under future warming in some regions,” Midgley stated. She said it is difficult to discern directly attributable impacts from gradual climate changes. “Some climate changes could be beneficial in some areas,” she stated.

About the Author

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large

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