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Fruit netting study

A DPI scientist is investigating how netting works to reduce sun damage on fruit in the Goulburn Valley this month.

January 22, 2013 4:06am

Dr Lexie McClymont preparing weather station equipment for the study.


A DPI scientist is investigating how netting works to reduce sun damage on fruit in the Goulburn Valley this month.

Tatura-based Dr Lexie McClymont will closely monitor weather conditions, fruit temperatures and sunburn damage in netted and un-netted Royal Gala apple blocks in the Goulburn Valley.

Dr McClymont said shade netting reduced sun damage, even though the air temperature might not be reduced under the netting.

Direct solar radiation plays a major role in causing sunburn damage through a combination of increasing apple skin temperatures and ultra-violet radiation.

DPI aims to have a better understanding of how the different components of weather interact to cause sun damage. With this information it will be able to give growers better predictions and warnings of sun damage on fruit for current and future climate scenarios.

This will help prevent some of the losses that occur each year due to sun-damaged apples and pears.

Fruit are often discarded because of sun damage varying from discoloration to full-blown sunburn.

Past reports from Australian and overseas pack-houses suggest 10 per cent of apples are rejected in a typical season. Losses are much greater when field rejections are included and in seasons that are warmer than normal. Growers in Australia estimate losses to vary from six to 30 per cent.

Some growers have invested heavily in practices, products and infrastructure to reduce their losses. These include shade netting, evaporative cooling and spray-on products.

Shade netting has been a popular option for sun and hail protection, despite its high initial capital cost of about $40000/ha.

Existing netted orchards in the Goulburn Valley offer a good opportunity to learn more about how to prevent sun damage on fruit.

The DPI and Horticulture Australia Ltd are co-operating with local orchardists in this project as part of the program for understanding apple and pear production systems in a changing climate.

Practical information for growers and service providers on Sun Protection for Fruit has been summarised by DPI in a 40-page manual and in an information note which is freely available in electronic format by phoning Fruit Growers Victoria on 58253700 or emailing DPI’s Sam Lolicato at sam.lolicato@dpi.vic.gov.au

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