News

Protecting fruit crops is netting rewards

By Rodney Woods

Shepparton company Geoffrey Thompson Orchards will use the services of Queensland company NetPro once again, this time to cover 35 ha of apple trees at its Coomboona orchard.

Geoffrey Thompson Orchards general orchard manager Brent Reeve said the business had partnered with NetPro for nearly two decades.

“We've worked with NetPro for 18 years now,” he said.

“We decided to get the first netting after a significant hail storm turned everything to juice on our Zeerust property.

"Two years after that hail event, we installed the netting on a 100 acre (40.5 ha) block.

“Now we've got 265 ha (out of 850 ha) netted at the moment across a few farms covering apples, pears and some stone fruit.”

Mr Reeve said the netting had many benefits including its ability to save the company on irrigation.

“It (the netting) definitely helps prevent sunburn, helps with moisture loss, it results in 30 per cent water savings, it improves the skin finish of the fruit and improves quality,” he said.

“It allows us to secure our crop and also to prevent against hail damage and birds.”

Despite admitting the benefit of water savings was "huge", Mr Reeves said the other benefits were equally important.

“If you get a hail event, then you've protected the whole crop and that becomes huge too."

Lindsay Adams, who works in horticultural sales at NetPro, said it was important to reduce the risks of sunburn, hail and bird damage due to the supermarkets’ demands.

“There were issues around sunburn in the last few seasons and a lot of fruit was rejected because supermarkets want first class,” Mr Adams said.

“The netting is a 12- to 15-year project and the structures can even last beyond that.”

While orchardists are the primary clients in the Goulburn Valley, NetPro also provides protective canopies for feedlots and commercial car storage areas across the country, New Zealand and the United States.

NETTING PROGRAM DELAYED

In further netting news, the guidelines for the Federal Government's netting program, which allowed growers to install new netting or replace damaged netting, has been pushed back due to the impacts of bushfires, a change in Federal Agriculture Minister and now COVID-19, according to Apple and Pear Australia.

“Under the original proposal, 50:50 grants of up to $300 000 were going to be made available for eligible growers, however, there is the potential that this amount may be reviewed,” an APAL spokesperson said.

“APAL has been in regular contact with the Federal Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud and his office regarding the implementation of the program.

“At a recent meeting in Canberra, the minister advised that the government is still progressing the program but wanted to ensure that it was more equitably distributed across the country.

“Originally, there were inconsistencies in the amounts allocated across the states.

“It is still understood South Australia will receive a proportionally larger amount in response to recent hailstorms, as well as the program covering other sectors other than apples and pears.

“We are hopeful that an announcement will be made shortly.”