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The influence of protective netting on tree physiology and fruit quality of apple: A review Published In Scientia Horticulturae, 236:60-72, 2018, by G. Mupambi, B. Anthony, D. Layne, S. Musacchi, S. Serra, T. Schmidt, L. Kalcsits

Abstract: The use of protective netting (also called shade nets or anti-hail nets) is being increasingly adopted in apple (Malus × domestica) production. Protective netting is mainly used to prevent fruit sunburn and protect trees against hail damage. Netting can also be used for protection against damage from birds, fruit bats, insects, wind and sand storms. In recent times, protective nets have been modified into photoselective nets by incorporating chromatic elements into the netting material. These change the spectral characteristics of the solar radiation reaching the tree canopy below the net and can affect physiological pathways that respond to the altered light spectra. Protective netting primarily modifies light quantity and quality underneath by reducing light intensity by an approximately pre-determined percentage. Protective netting has also been reported to reduce wind speed and soil temperature with minimal impact on canopy temperature and relative humidity. Quantifying the in-fluence of protective netting on tree gas exchange has been difficult due to variations in the environmental conditions at the time of measurement. Reductions in light intensity due to protective netting result in increased leaf area, shoot length, and total shoot fresh weight that increases as the net shading percentage increases. Fruit set, return bloom, and flower induction are all affected by protective netting. Ultimately, fruit quality is the critical factor determining whether protective netting is suitable for apple production. The reported results on the effect of protective netting on fruit quality have not been conclusive. It has been suggested that changes in fruit quality under protective netting are often more influenced by the environmental conditions in that specific growing season than the netting itself. For example, typical shade responses under netting can be exacerbated when the natural overall light intensity is reduced on cloudy days. In conclusion, protective netting provides an alternative to traditional approaches to protecting apple from sunburn, mechanical injury from hail and wind, and abiotic stress that limits tree productivity. However, the inconsistent reported results suggest a targeted approach is needed to identify specific physiological responses of apple under protective netting, and more specifically, photoselective netting as a strategy to protect apple orchards from adverse environmental conditions.


Washington State University