The first harvest of apples under a netted area at the Lysters’ orchard near Manjimup in April 2014 has shown mixed results. The site, netted in October 2013, aims to demonstrate the value of netting to improve water use efficiency and orchard productivity in high density production systems.
This DAFWA work is supported through funding from Royalties for Regions, the Department of Regional Development, Horticulture Australia and the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.
The 1.2 hectare (ha) demonstration site has 0.5ha of permanent net constructed over an established block of Cripps Pink and Fuji apple trees. Areas of black and white 16mm quad netting were installed, each covering 0.25ha. The remaining area contains two comparison blocks, a DAFWA-managed control, and a grower practice control.
Particular attention was given to assessing the impact of netting on fruit quality parameters such as sunburn, windburn, size, colour, firmness and sugars, while in-field data is being collected to compare tree development and chill accrual under the netting compared with outside.
There were positive results for water savings, prevention of sunburn and bird damage, but some challenges in management to obtain the required colour were identified. The first season resulted in good yields but low marketability of fruit throughout the block.
The coming season will see more attention in the timing of the use of colour accelerants and leaf and fruit analysis to guide crop nutrition and ensure a good quality crop.