Naranja nette

A sea of nets cover the Naranja plantation.


Over the last couple of months, these nets have increased, covering almost the whole valley in a snow-like carpet. But what is the purpose of these nets?

Steelburger/Lydenburg News approached one of the largest citrus farms in the area, Naranja, to find out what these nets are used for. To set readers at ease that it is no danger to the environment, a group of specialists at Naranja shed some light on the subject.

According to them, the use of a permanent net structure in the northern region is primarily to protect their fruit against hail damage and any wind scarring associated with our summer storms. In the Cape, the nets protect the trees against the damaging south-eastern and north-western winds, high radiation during summer and help to lift the humidity during the dry summers.

This all contributes immensely to maximising growth and protecting fruit from wind damage. They believe the nets will also be able to exclude false codling moth and other disease-spreading vectors. From afar, the nets all look alike, but if you take a closer look, they are in fact different. This is for a specific reason. “We use a 20 per cent UV block white net in the northern region. At Zandvliet (Western Cape) we’ve installed a specially constructed 20 per cent UV block black-and-crystal weave to blend in with the environment.

The white net provides an effective eight per cent shade, the black and crystal 12,5 per cent. We use a 40 per cent green net on the sides especially when requiring additional wind protection. The higher the UV block, the denser the weave,” explained the experts in netting.

Maintenance, on the another hand, is not much of a worry. The nets usually lasts 10 to 15 years depending on weather elements, and the poles and lines supporting the nets are expected to last for up to 30 years. Tears that occur in the net can easily be fixed and the structures are regularly tested.

The structures, which were designed for hail protection, require expert design and construction. They have a professional contractor assigned to this.

“However, we have our own trained staff in the Western Cape, where we have a standard fixed structure for wind protection.”

Water usage is very much linked to climate, aspect and altitude. The experience in the northern region is that trees use less water under a net in a cool, dry climate compared to trees under a net in a hot and humid region, the former having similar hours inside and out of effective transpiration with higher evaporation outside than inside, the latter having longer hours inside than out of effective transpiration.

So there you go, everything to know about the nets covering the trees providing you with delicious fruit year in and year out.

Mariska Sadler

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