Good Fruit Grower

March 15

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26 MARCH 15, 2014 GOOD FRUIT GROWER round the world, tree fruit growers are using covers to protect high-value crops. Orchardists in the United States have been slow to adopt the practice, but using them could increase returns on investment, says a Washington State tree fruit researcher. It's commonplace to see netting and protective covers in orchards in Italy and France, where hail occurs often. In Australia, growers use covers mainly to protect from bird damage, while in New Zealand, covers block hail. South African orchardists, who have found significant reduc- tion in sunburn and an increase in yield from covers, are rapidly adopting netting technology and have initiated extensive research trials, according to Tory Schmidt, research scientist with the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission. "Growers are using protective covers all over the world," Schmidt said. "But here in Washington, we don't have a lot of commercial use or experience with them." A panel of horticulturists and netting suppliers from several conti- nents discussed the advantages and drawbacks of protective covers during the Washington State Horticultural Association's annual meeting. A common theme was the need to match netting material to the desired effect. Different goals require different netting materials and infrastructure. Additionally, a sturdy infrastructure supporting the orchard cover will determine its success. The Research Commission initiated a netting trial a few years ago at the Washington State University Sunrise Research Orchard near Wenatchee to learn more about netting under Washington conditions. Schmidt shared that he studied "pods" of netting versus netting draped over Granny Smith apple tree rows. The pods are snug on all sides and cover three tree rows at a time. Crop Management PROTECTING your high-value crop Orchard netting may be cost effective for high-value varieties like Honeycrisp. by Melissa Hansen Ty Snyder, of C&O Nursery, examines a protective covering during a field day last summer at Washington State University's research orchard near Wenatchee.

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