Identification of chilling and heat requirements of cherry trees--a statistical approach

Int J Biometeorol. 2013 Sep;57(5):679-89. doi: 10.1007/s00484-012-0594-y. Epub 2012 Oct 6.


Most trees from temperate climates require the accumulation of winter chill and subsequent heat during their dormant phase to resume growth and initiate flowering in the following spring. Global warming could reduce chill and hence hamper the cultivation of high-chill species such as cherries. Yet determining chilling and heat requirements requires large-scale controlled-forcing experiments, and estimates are thus often unavailable. Where long-term phenology datasets exist, partial least squares (PLS) regression can be used as an alternative, to determine climatic requirements statistically. Bloom dates of cherry cv. 'Schneiders späte Knorpelkirsche' trees in Klein-Altendorf, Germany, from 24 growing seasons were correlated with 11-day running means of daily mean temperature. Based on the output of the PLS regression, five candidate chilling periods ranging in length from 17 to 102 days, and one forcing phase of 66 days were delineated. Among three common chill models used to quantify chill, the Dynamic Model showed the lowest variation in chill, indicating that it may be more accurate than the Utah and Chilling Hours Models. Based on the longest candidate chilling phase with the earliest starting date, cv. 'Schneiders späte Knorpelkirsche' cherries at Bonn exhibited a chilling requirement of 68.6 ± 5.7 chill portions (or 1,375 ± 178 chilling hours or 1,410 ± 238 Utah chill units) and a heat requirement of 3,473 ± 1,236 growing degree hours. Closer investigation of the distinct chilling phases detected by PLS regression could contribute to our understanding of dormancy processes and thus help fruit and nut growers identify suitable tree cultivars for a future in which static climatic conditions can no longer be assumed. All procedures used in this study were bundled in an R package ('chillR') and are provided as Supplementary materials. The procedure was also applied to leaf emergence dates of walnut (cv. 'Payne') at Davis, California.

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization / physiology*
  • Climate*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Flowers
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Prunus / physiology*
  • Temperature*
  • Trees / physiology*
  • Weather*