Support Provided ByLearn More

Climate Change Is Making Apples Soft

ByTim De ChantNOVA NextNOVA Next

Receive emails about upcoming NOVA programs and related content, as well as featured reporting about current events through a science lens.

It’s no secret that global warming is upending climate and weather patterns, affecting everything from the intensity of hurricanes to when flowers blossom . With effects as disparate as these, it was only a matter of time before scientists discovered others—and now they have.

Heidi Ledford, writing for Nature News:

Support Provided ByLearn More

Previous work had shown that rising temperatures could make apple trees flower earlier. Fruit-tree specialist Toshihiko Sugiura of the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization in Tsukuba, Japan, and his colleagues decided to look at how this shift affects the quality of the fruit. The team analysed four decades’ worth of data collected from two varieties of apple — Fuji and Tsugaru — grown in the Nagano and Aomori prefectures.

Climate change is affecting the tartness and crispness of apples.

They found that the hardness and acidity of the apples had declined during that time, while their sweetness had increased.

Apples grown today aren’t as crisp or tart as they were 40 years ago because trees are flowering earlier. Come harvest, their fruit is riper and sweeter. The shift has been gradual, so you probably haven’t noticed, but the familiar crunch of a large fuji today doesn’t compare to what our parents ate in the 1970s. Given how tightly the ripening process is tied to seasonal temperatures, the trend toward softer and sweeter is likely to continue. Hope you like them apples.

Funding for NOVA Next is provided by the Eleanor and Howard Morgan Family Foundation.

National corporate funding for NOVA is provided by Draper. Major funding for NOVA is provided by the David H. Koch Fund for Science, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and PBS viewers. Additional funding is provided by the NOVA Science Trust.