The use of phenological data to calculate chilling units in Olea europaea L. in relation to the onset of reproduction
The aim of this study was to develop a practical method to evaluate the effective relationship between the amount of winter chilling and the response expressed as the spring reproductive re-starting dates in the olive (Olea europaea L.). Two olive cultivars growing in a special olive orchard in Umbria (central Italy) were studied over a 3-year period (1998–2000): the cultivar Ascolana, typical of central Italy, and the cultivar Giarraffa, typical of southern Italy. The spring reproductive re-starts were assessed using data from detailed phenological observations made on 60 trees of each cultivar in an effort to establish the exact date of reproductive bud swelling. The chilling phenomenon was evaluated by using 341 functions derived from a formula developed by researchers at Utah State University to calculate chilling units. The mathematical functions are defined, and show the very close relationship between the amount of winter chilling and the spring reproductive response in the two cultivars in the orchard studied. The results can be used to define the relationship between local climate and plant development, and the mathematical approach can be used to draw maps that can show the suitability of different cultivars on the basis of local climatic conditions.
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