A global analysis of the comparability of winter chill models for fruit and nut trees

Many fruit and nut trees must fulfill a chilling requirement to break their winter dormancy and resume normal growth in spring. Several models exist for quantifying winter chill, and growers and researchers often tacitly assume that the choice of model is not important and estimates of species chilling requirements are valid across growing regions. To test this assumption, Safe Winter Chill (the amount of winter chill that is exceeded in 90% of years) was calculated for 5,078 weather stations around the world, using the Dynamic Model [in Chill Portions (CP)], the Chilling Hours (CH) Model and the Utah Model [Utah Chill Units (UCU)]. Distributions of the ratios between different winter chill metrics were mapped on a global scale. These ratios should be constant if the models were strictly proportional. Ratios between winter chill metrics varied substantially, with the CH/CP ratio ranging between 0 and 34, the UCU/CP ratio between -155 and +20 and the UCU/CH ratio between -10 and +5. The models are thus not proportional, and chilling requirements determined in a given location may not be valid elsewhere. The Utah Model produced negative winter chill totals in many Subtropical regions, where it does not seem to be useful.