Normally, flowering of mango trees begins in southern Kerala around this time
Mango flowering has started since the third week of December in Telangana and Odisha, which is at least a month sooner than the normal period of flowering.
Unseasonal rainfall and a warmer-than-normal winter — both imprints of a changing climate — may be responsible for such anomalous flowering, according to experts.
Usually flowering of mango trees begins in southern Kerala around this time, MD Subash Chandran, professor of ecology at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore told Down To Earth (DTE).
“This is because flowering requires warmth and humidity, which is readily available in Kerala during this period. From here the flowering spreads northward, and northwest India witnesses flowering last,” he said. The fruiting of mango trees also follows a similar south to north pattern, the expert added.
In the northern parts of the peninsular region such as Telangana and Odisha, this is usually a dry period. So, flowering is early and highly unusual. But in the week from December 8-14, 2022 there was large excess rainfall in 16 out of the 33 districts of Telangana, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD).
In Rangareddy district, where DTE observed flowering, there was 735 per cent more rainfall than normal, the national weather agency reported.
Such high precipitation and subsequent humidity send a false stimulus to the mango trees that the weather conditions are favourable for flowering. This can trigger the trees to sprout flowers even though it is unseasonal.
Flowering usually happens after the coldest period of the season is ending, heralding spring. This again shows that the period this year is warmer than usual for Telangana and Odisha. “Warm temperatures, apart from unseasonal rainfall, can also induce flowering in mango trees,” said Chandran.
“Under the influence of climate shift, early and delayed flowering is a characteristic feature of mango,” said a research paper published in the journal Ecology Environment and Conservation in March 2016.
Read more: Mango trees are flowering well this season; why then are farmers worried?
“Two of the most important factors determining suitability of an area’s climate for mango are air temperature and rainfall. The sequence of phenological (plant growth) changes is either advanced or retarded with the rise and fall in temperature and the onset of wet and dry seasons,” according to the report.
Therefore, climate change is likely to influence phenological patterns and indirectly vegetative and reproductive processes leading to reduced quality and quantity of production, the scientists argued.
Mango trees in various regions had shown unusual flowering characteristics in February this year as well. The flowering was intense, with some places reporting flowers and fruits sprouting together on some trees.
This, DTE had reported, was an indication of the coming stormy season and intense summer. The current early flowering could also bring similar conditions, a section of the experts think.
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