PROTECTION: President of Low Chill Australia Ray Hick (left) with hail proof netting designer Mark Donnelly at the National Low Chill Stone Fruit Conference in Bangalow.
PROTECTION: President of Low Chill Australia Ray Hick (left) with hail proof netting designer Mark Donnelly at the National Low Chill Stone Fruit Conference in Bangalow. Mel McMillan

Protective netting save stonefruit

HAIL the new hail net – a tricky innovation in protective netting set to reduce the impact of extreme weather events on local stonefruit crops.

The local stone fruit industry was devastated by hail storms in October 2007, causing more than a million dollars worth of damage just three weeks before harvest was due to take place.

Now the industry is fighting back as it develops strategies to cope with extreme weather.

“It really is a tremendous advance,” Low Chill Australia president Ray Hick said.

Mr Hick said the industry needed to find ways to cope with climate change and the more frequent severe weather events expected to accompany it.

The new netting was developed by netting specialist Mark Donnelly to cope specifically with hail storms.

Its ingenuity lies in the fact it catches hail and then lets it slip through channels in the net so that it falls into the rows between plantings.

Flat and pitched netting rips open or collapses under the weight of the hail, which results in damage to the fruit and the netting.

The new netting was unveiled yesterday at day three of the National Low Chill Stonefruit Conference, at Bangalow.

The net took three years to design and construct and is now available to growers.

The net, made from fine polyurethane yarn, can be retrofitted to existing net support structures.

In addition to offering hail protection, it also protects against birds, bats, insects, as well as sun and wind damage.

About 150 low chill stonefruit growers from as far as Western Australia and Tasmania, including one international guest from Morocco, attended the three day conference.

The focus of the event was farming with weather uncertainty and featured speakers from the Bureau of Meteorology and other weather and farming experts.

The low chill stonefruit industry in Australia turns over about $45 million a year.

Local growers contribute about $8 million.



'Consider your fire plan': residents told to be prepared

'Consider your fire plan': residents told to be prepared

A total of 79 bush and grass fires burn across the state

Local Partners