Every year, farmers complain of damaged crops and vegetables and seek ways to prevent such mishaps in the future. There are several ways to protect your crops from damage from pests, each with its advantages and disadvantages. These methods also pose varying degrees of danger to the animals.
One such way to protect the crops is with nettings. There are several kinds of nettings, based on mesh sizes and yard strands, and each has its specific application. However, there has been a clamor for nettings that aren’t dangerous for the animals. Every year, countless animals are injured and killed by indiscriminate use of netting. Below is a guide on wildlife-friendly netting.
Not all netting available at commercial stores is wildlife-friendly, many are potentially hazardous for the unsuspecting animals. To protect the ecosystem, you must purchase nettings that won’t expose the animals to the risk of injury or death. There are two criteria to consider when purchasing netting for your garden.
Net filament type
There are two types of netting based on the strand or filament type. There’s the monofilament netting and the multi-strand netting. The monofilament netting has a net mesh woven with single strands of material. The multi-strand netting uses more than one strand of material in the mesh weave.
Monofilament netting is unsuitable for protecting crops and fruits against wildlife. This is because the strands easily ensnare the animals and as they struggle to break free, the yarn rips into their flesh, wings, or wing membranes. The resulting injury can be life-threatening for the animal.
So, if you want to purchase a netting for your fruits, go for multi-strand netting, as they protect your crops, and are safe for the animal too.
There are different mesh sizes available for fruit protection nettings, and each size has its peculiar application. The nettings with bigger mesh sizes are for protecting your fruits from large birds, while the smaller mesh sizes are for smaller pests.
However, bigger mesh sizes of netting are dangerous to wildlife, because the meshes become snares that can entangle them and injure them. If you know that the location of your orchard is only prone to attacks from large animals, you can purchase nettings with bigger mesh sizes.
If you are unsure about the type of animals that attack your crops, it’s better to install netting with smaller mesh sizes, for the sake of the animals.
The finger test
The finger test is a way to decide if the netting is safe for wildlife. Any netting with meshes that your finger can pass through poses a risk to wildlife and should not be used.
Two wildlife-friendly ways to protect your fruits
Protect the fruits individually
This method involves protecting each fruit separately. There are two ways to achieve this; by using “tree protection bags”, or by using plastic garden pots. You can purchase the fruit protection bags at regular agricultural sales points. You can also improvise using pieces of clothes large enough to cover the fruit.
To use the plastic pots, cut off the bottom of the pots and slit through one side. This allows you to fit the pot around the fruit easily, with the bottom side of the pot serving as the hole for the stem. Protecting the fruits individually is extremely labor-intensive.
Protect the whole tree
There are two ways to protect your trees. You can install a full canopy netting or tunnel netting. The full canopy netting involves installing the netting around the whole orchard or garden. The tunnel netting involves installing the netting across the rows of the plants.
If you want to protect only one tree, you can also wrap around the tree along with the netting. We, however, recommend a net with a small mesh size and doesn’t require a frame. The small mesh size ensures that no wildlife will become entangled. You should also use white netting as they are easier to spot.
Good netting installation practice
It is essential to install your netting properly, as this could be the difference between the life and death of the wildlife in your locality. So if you must install netting, ensure you follow these practices;
- Only use knitted netting with a long life span or a 30% blockout shade cloth as a cheap alternative
- When estimating the amount of netting you need, allow enough extra to attach the netting family to the ground.
- The best choice for netting color is white. This is because the color stands out against the color of the foliage of the trees and their produce.
- Always ensure you stretch the netting to make it taut over the frame and secure it to the ground with a peg. Loose netting loses shape easily and will more likely trap wildlife.
- Create access to the garden or orchard by adding Velcro to the netting or you tie one side of the netting to the frame.
- Used tent pegs or wrap the netting’s ends around heavy objects like bricks. This ensures the tension of the netting over the frame and prevents snakes and other wildlife from creeping under the netting.
- You can also use clothes pegs and tie wire to stop the netting from slipping over the frame and sagging to form traps. To ensure an even tension of the netting across the frame, hold the netting in several positions.
- Construct the frame with metal, timber, or lengths of polythene pipe stuck into star pickets and driven into the earth. To stabilize the top of the frame, use spacer bars made with wood or polythene pipe.
- Always ensure the frame has a height higher than the crops.
- Promptly remove the nettings after fruiting, as the netting can damage new growths on the tree.
The bounce test
The bounce test is employed to check if you have installed the netting properly. It is essential for your netting to be taut after installation for it to be effective. The tautness ensures that the net doesn’t fold around any animal that crawls over or lands on the net.
Essentially, the netting should be taut enough to almost bounce the animal off, rather than cause the animal to into it when it lands. Ensure you check the netting every day to reaffirm its tautness. Also, check if an animal has become entangled because it could still happen despite all precautions.
Avoid indiscriminately disposing of your netting after it has completed its lifespan. Do not dispose of your netting into a body of water, like a river or stream, because it poses a danger to the wildlife that uses the water body as their habitat. Even animals that only use the water body on occasions are also exposed to the risk of entanglement and injury.
What to do if your netting ensnares an animal
If you discover that your netting has trapped an animal, be extremely careful about approaching it. This is because the animal will probably be injured by the netting and be highly stressed. Any endeavor to remove such an animal poses a risk for both the rescuer and the animal.
If you discover an animal trapped in your netting, cover it with a towel if you can and contact the authorities. Ensure you inform them if the animal is alive or dead, and where exactly you found it. Do not try to rescue flying foxes or any species of bats, as some of them can transmit harmful germs through a scratch or a bite.
No one wants to see their fruits and vegetables damaged by animals. However, we all have to help protect these animals and our ecosystem. There are ways to protect your crops and simultaneously avoid harming the wildlife. EyouAgro offers a range of wildlife-friendly netting, all at affordable prices. Ask for a quote today.