Good Fruit Grower

November 2015

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14 NOVEMBER 2015 GOOD FRUIT GROWER C entral Washington State is known for breathtaking scenery, especially the greenery of vast orchards that fl ow from mountains into river valleys. But that view may radically change to red, blue, or pearl if growers decide to cover their acreage in colored nets. Washington State University researchers are studying how netting in different colors addresses problems, such as sunburn and stress, that cost grower dollars. Netting is already used in certain areas, especially in Europe, as protection from hail. Perhaps just 1,500 acres of Washington's apple orchards are netted. But the WSU researchers are looking at netting for more widespread use, as replacement for overhead cooling systems that are often necessary in the Northwest's climate of long days of intense sunlight. The researchers are studying how nets of different colors affect the microclimate around a plant and affect plant physiology, production, and fruit quality and storability. To an untrained eye, the colors in the study look like a 4 th of July array of simple red, blue, and white, but the whitish nets are actually a pearl hue. (Pure white refl ects light; pearl allows more light to enter the canopy.) Dr. Lee Kalcsits, plant physiologist with the WSU Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee, recently spoke to Good Fruit Grower about the project, which also involves WSU researchers Dr. Stefano Musacchi, Dr. Desmond Layne, Dr. Sara Serra, and Tory Schmidt, research scientist with the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission. The research team will present their fi rst round of fi ndings in December at the Washington State Tree Fruit Association's annual meeting in Yakima. Based on early results, Kalcsits is confi dent that many growers will begin using netting. "I think it has really good potential to at New Technology WSU researchers study how netting colors prevent Honeycrisp sunburn. by O. Casey Corr If netting is the future, WHAT COLOR?

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