I started a fruit tree orchard a couple of years ago. Since then, I have observed variations in my fruit tree growth.
What could be causing these fruit tree growth changes over a small area?
Well, in this guide, you will learn:
- What is a microclimate?
- How microclimate affect your plant growth
- How microclimate can be changed
- Changes to fruit tree growth
- Management of orchards
- Costs orchard netting
So if you want to grow apples, peach, cherries, and others suited to your area’s variations, you’ll love a guide on fruit tree microclimate.
Let’s get started.
What Is the Microclimate?
What is it! If you’re an orchard owner, you might know of specific locations in your garden where fruits do well. This may be in the corner of your orchard, sheltered area, or valley. These local variations are distinct from your whole area, referred to as microclimate. Microclimates play a role in determining what fruit trees will be present.
A good example:
A Kiwi, vine, apple, or cherry fruit growing under an enhanced net micro-climate net city built environment. The area may differ from the surrounding by being warmer. And your fruit will thrive and produce successfully.
And another thing, ever wondered what could cause these variations over a small area. Many factors come into play – the local difference in humidity, the aspects, the wind elevation, and much more.
How Does Microclimate Affect Plant Growth
A microclimate influences your orchard growth.
According to research from Australia (Middleton & McWaters 1996, 2000). The research studied microclimate among orchards and found permanent canopy netting changes the net’s microclimate and environment. Net color also influences the changes that occur.
The good news is you can do much to influence or modify the microclimate to your advantage.
How Can We Change the Microclimate of Orchard?
Orchard growing requires the fruit grower to understand their microclimates and tactics to modify the microclimate. Yes, It is within your hands to modify the microclimate in which your fruit tree grows. What’s more, you can vary it to achieve your fruit trees’ successful growth.
The question is: how?
The microclimatic conditions depend on many factors – humidity, temperature, wind and frost, and evaporation. You can create microclimates by
- Careful selection of netting type
- Location of your orchard
- Orchard management
Orchard Netting Type
Your orchard netting comes in many variations, structure, materials, and design.
In your orchard, you have 2 netting options.
- Full canopy netting: If you opt for this net type, it is held together by a strong structure of poles and cables over your whole orchard.
- Tunnel netting: In this type of netting, a line of frames bound by wires are constructed at intervals along the row.
Whichever type of netting you select, the netting effect on microclimate results in a higher quality of fruit production from the orchard.
Orchard Netted Microclimate
The netting changes the microclimate under your net. Changes to the orchard microclimate will be significantly greater if you have nets with small mesh sizes, eg12 mm quad hail net.
You get the least change with large mesh sizes (37 mm or 20 mm mesh).
Your net color also influences the microclimate. Research on hail netted orchards (Middleton and McWaters 2000) highlights some trends
- Light level reduction by color nets
- 20–27% under the black net
- 18% under the grey net
- and by 12–15% under the white net.
- Humidity increased by up to 10%.
Research on Hail Netting Apple Orchards
In similar Australian research on hail netting apple orchards, it highlights the following:
- The hail net had the least effect on grass air and soil temperature.
- The black hail net felt cooler because light levels were reduced.
- The white net’s temperature feels higher on hot days because of its reflected light.
- Hail net has less impact on night time temperatures and does not offer frost protection.
Research on Insect Netting.
In another research on insect exclusion netting at the Maroochy Research Station showed the following,
- Fruit varieties showed reduced height and increased diameter.
- Reduced shoot growth of between 15 to 20% occurred on trees under netting.
- The higher day temperatures under nets did not change flowering dates.
- Fruit matured earlier by 7 to 10 days for varieties grown.
- Pollination and fruit were affected in the first year due to the lack of bees at flowering.
- Sugar concentration boosted by 20 to 30%
Orchard Microclimate Changed under 3 Type of Tunnel Netting
You can use the three types of tunnel netting. By using netting, the microclimate changed as follows.
- The tunnel netting using White Queensland fruit fly light weave exclusion net is put before the fruit begins to color. The lychee fruit harvested was 27% larger than those harvested under bird and bat net exclusion nets.
- Tunnel netting using white 12mm hail net with a cross-stitch; in lychee orchards in Australia where tree growth is not vigorous, a minimum 6 m high net canopy is recommended.
- Tunnel netting using diamond mesh blackbird net, hole size of 15 mm. In Australia, where growth is much more vigorous, tunnel net canopies up to 8 m in height his recommended.
Cost of Orchard Netting
It would help if you considered your circumstances when deciding which netting system best suits you. Carefully assess your decision based on financial implications.
According to studies, the cost of orchard netting ranges from $17 000 to – 72 000 per hectare. The factors that will affect the cost of your orchard netting are:
- Quality of the net and mesh size
- Quality of structural materials (poles and cables)
- Use of contractors or available labor to install structures and the nets
- Area and shape of your orchard
- Terrain and unproductive area under the net
- Height of the net canopy
Bear in mind that cheap net now may not be cheaper over the long run than higher-cost options.
Take, for example, a cheap vine net. In the low-cost structure, you will need maintenance and replacements. Not so with a costly net that is well designed. It will last many years and cost you less in maintenance.
Where the netting option is not clear, try in a small part of your orchard with low-cost tunnel netting acting as a control.
Move to the whole orchard if your increased returns justify the expense.
Change to Tree Growth
Changes to tree growth under nets are a result of the interaction of many variables, including the
- Type of net used
- Prevailing climate,
- Fruit varieties grown
Information from research on netted orchards can provide you insight into potential microclimate changes. Some observations regarding the growth of apple trees under hail nets in Australia (Middleton and McWaters 2000) shows that:
- The vigor determines tree response to hail netting.
- The leaf and canopy structure of the trees can reduce light levels by up to 95%
- The effect of hail netting on the color development in red apples is variable.
Other research in orchard microclimate has found that,
- Trees under hail netting would be less stressed in hot and dry weather.
- Netted orchards help to ensure consistent supply for market development.
- Bees are active in the sheltered environment under nets and across the rows.
- Hail netting leads to
- Reductions in sunburn
- Improvements in color
- Reductions or elimination of bird damage to fruit
Management of Orchard
Your management of the orchard changes the orchard environment both positively and negatively. The thing is to be aware of these changes, consequences, and strategies to manage them.
Some of the management you can perform include pollination, pruning, and controlling cyclone damage.
Pollination: Nets with small holes can limit bee access and other pollinators. Middleton and McWaters 2000 highlighted the following regarding the management of bees under hail nets.
- Weak hives do not contribute to the pollination of the crop.
- Enough space between treetops and the hail net is important for the best bee flight.
- It is important to place hives under hail netting to achieve good pollination.
The report suggests you can use the following strategies to alleviate pollination problems associated with nets,
- Use of nets of large mesh size because they allow movement of bees and other insects
- If you want wind pollination, use nets with a large mesh size.
- Roll up your side netting during flowering to help bees and other insect movements
Another management is pruning under your netting. It requires little changes for fruits that are managed under stringent pruning regimes. In netted orchards, you run to maximize light distribution through the canopy.
If you want to manage cyclone and storm damage, keep in mind the netting is expensive. Some strategies you can use to minimize damage to nets by wind include
- Use of full canopy netting designed to resistant to wind
- Use quality materials both for the structure and nets.
- Avoid growing tree species that easily break near full canopy netted orchards.
Over time many growers have outlined many advantages of orchard netting among them.
- The harvesting season begins earlier.
- Improved fruit quality
- Enhanced management
- Netting provides chemical-free control of orchard.
- Improved water use
- Financial certainty is improved.
Successful fruit tree growth doesn’t happen by chance. They follow this proven microclimate’s information guide. Start taking into consideration microclimate, and you’ll be creating high yielding orchards—every single season.
And in case your neighbor’s orchard is doing better than yours, the answer is in their orchards microclimates and not just their skills.