Drape net – new hail protection for New Zealand orchards
The Drape Net concept was developed 12 years ago by third generation Australian orchardist Michael Cunial in Orange NSW. After suffering numerous hail events – sometimes up to eight in one year – and not in a position to install costly structured netting across his whole orchard, Michael starting trialling ‘tree row-specific’ net that was affixed onto the tree.
Trials and commercial use has shown Drape Net’s proven benefit of protecting apples and other crops from hail damage, as well as:
reducing wind and branch rub, bird damage and insect pressure
markedly reducing in sunburn
improving water retention
Drape Net is now used in all major fruit growing areas of Australia, including large corporate growers such as Montague’s in Victoria. Drape Net can be easily deployed and removed with the NetWizz™ applicator tractor attachment.
Following a major hail event in Nelson in 2015 where areas of structured hail net collapsed and growers suffered major fruit losses, industry sales consultant and grower Bruce Gemmell working with Fruitfed Supplies personnel to set up trials on 17 orchards in Hawke’s Bay and Nelson. Drawing on Drape Net’s proven ability to prevent hail damage in Australia, Bruce and the Fruitfed team wanted to be sure that New Zealand growers had the same results as their Australian counterparts, which include no negative reduction of spray penetration and fruit colouring.
The New Zealand trials were expanded commercially for the 2015/16 growing season with 16 ha of trials in South Canterbury, Nelson and Hawke’s Bay and results show all the above benefits were achieved in all three regions.
Rob Wards, Fruitfed Supplies Canterbury area sales manager says: “Growers can now ensure that their top returning varieties will be protected from hail and bird damage with a cost effective option.”
Rob initiated the involvement of Timaru growers Peter and Danny Bennett, of Waipopo Orchards, in the Drape Net trials. They covered seven hectares of Honeycrisp apples and believe that there will be numerous other benefits apart from the key benefit of protecting their crops from hail. Already they’ve seen a marked reduction in bird damage in one Honeycrisp block which in past years reduced their export pack-out. Currently, South Canterbury growers indicate that they will cover all cropping Honeycrisp blocks in Drape Net next season.
With a second significant hail storm effecting Nelson’s fruit blocks this season, growers are also showing serious interest in this new anti-hail crop protection system.
Other horticultural crops such as blueberries, citrus, avocados and olives will be involved in the coming season’s Drape Net trials. Drape Net is used in the Australian citrus industry for preventing pollination in Satsuma seedless mandarins. For further information, please contact your local Fruitfed Supplies Ltd representative.
Developed in Australia and now available in New Zealand through Fruitfed Supplies, the Drape Net® physical crop protection system provides cost effective hail protection for a range of tree crops.