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How Protective Netting and Covers are Revolutionising Horticulture and Viticulture for Increased Profit and Quality

Surging market demand for premium produce and unpredictable weather conditions are propelling advancements in horticulture and viticulture. A prime example is the adoption of protective netting and covers by growers globally to safeguard crop quality and income.

 


Research and farmer experiences affirm that protective nets and covers are highly effective against sunburn, hail, and rain. And with an 80% chance of a La Nina weather pattern in 2024, protection against unpredictable weather is needed now, perhaps more than ever. An Australian study recently found a 50% reduction in sunburn with the use of protective netting. A 2017 study by Washington State University reveals that protective netting significantly reduces sunburn damage and water usage by around 30%. But even more exciting is the enhanced yield and class grades.

 

In 2022, fruit valued at millions of dollars was wiped out in Victoria, Australia by a series of hail storms. For storm affected growers, it is clear the cost of protective netting could be returned in a single season.

 

Hort Innovation's research indicates that by 2050, sunburn risk days in warmer climates will rise from 18% to 28%-36%. This report also predicts that most growing regions will face enhanced sunburn risks. As such, by 2050, growers in regions with typically milder summers must adjust their orchard practices to cope with frequent heat events impacting fruit quality.


Experiencing severe weather or sunburn can highlight the importance of investing in crop protection. Apple and cherry growers, Chris and Alex Turnbull, founders of Inspired Ag in 2019, understand this firsthand. They are the Australian agent for Valente, a top-notch crop protection system with a variety of technical solutions.

 

Valente, an Italian industry leader, provides an array of materials including concrete tree support poles, various nets and covers, clips, and anchors. Known for its quality, functionality, and durability, Valente's products are tailor-made to withstand Australian conditions. Their product refinement over decades is a testament to their extensive industry knowledge and customer feedback integration.


Valente offers: anti-hail, anti-rain, anti-insect and the shadow system for sunburn protection. The premium option is an automated, multi-purpose protection cover known as Wayki. Each system is multi-functional while also meeting the highest of specifications for protection.

 

When choosing to make an investment such as rain and hail covers, designing a solution growers must consider a range of key factors; what needs to be mitigated, the crop type, local climate and what the grower aims to achieve. A typical set of circumstances could be an apple grower in a Mediterranean climate seeking to mitigate hail and sunburn, frost, wind, with the ideal scenario being improved pollination and an early harvest window. With this in mind, it is important to engage expert advice to ensure the right solution.

 

There are many different types of hail-net on the market. The Valente hail mesh has a rectangular 2.8 x 8 mm shape and is non-deformable, meaning dimensions don’t change when subjected to hail load. It is rigid and strong and can withstand six kilograms of fruit per m2. The weave is sparse enough to let enough light in to ensure colouration of apples whilst protecting from hail and sunburn.

 

A study in North East Portugal, where the climate is hot and sunny, growers are seeing improved performance of apple trees under protection. This is because the amount of radiation reaching the tree often exceeds its needs for photosynthesis. The net blocks some of this radiation therefore increasing the time that the tree spends in a productive state which can induce an early harvest window. The forecast is that these findings could provide proactive solutions for current and future negative impacts of climate change. This research is echoed by a peer reviewed report in South Africa that states the “in addition to attenuating excessive solar radiation, protective netting increases light scattering which results in improved light penetration into the tree canopy and improved tree productivity (Willey 2016).”

In Tasmania, Australia, where cherry growers are investing heavily in rain covers, University of Tasmania Professor Dugald Close echoes the research that a myriad of benefits can be obtained by protecting cherries with the right covers. Benefits include reduced cracking from rain and less damage from wind and frost. Prof. Close said covers can also aid pollination and induce consistent bloom times. Prof. Close describes automated netting as the “Rolls Royce” of all solutions. Valente produces an automated product known as Wayki.

 

Depending on the needs of the grower, protective covers, netting and structural systems vary greatly. Technical features of the woven thread of the covers will determine its purpose. For most growers, it is therefore important to engage expert advice when it comes to designing the right solution.

 

In summary – research is increasingly backing the need for protective covers and nets to counter future weather patterns and market demands. By 2050, this will be necessary to compete on a global, commercial stage. But for growers, the choices are vast and technical: depending on the features of the thread. To discuss your needs with an expert contact us at 1800 224 996.

 

                                                                                                                                        

 

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