Replicated trials were conducted during the summers of 1998 and 1999 at commercial orchards in South Carolina to determine the influence of ground application of a metalized, high density polyethylene reflective film on fruit red skin color and maturity of peach (Prunus persica) cultivars that historically have poor red coloration. At each site there were two experimental treatments: 1) control and 2) reflective film (film). Film was applied 2 to 4 weeks before anticipated first harvest date by laying a 150-cm (5-ft) wide strip of plastic on either side of the tree row in the middles. Treatment areas at a given farm ranged from 0.25 to 0.5 ha (0.5 to 1.0 acre) in size and each treatment was replicated four times at each site. At harvest, two 50-fruit samples were picked from each plot per treatment. All fruit were sized and visually sorted for color (1 = 0% to 25%, 2 = 26% to 50%, 3 = 51% to 75%, and 4 = 76% to 100% red surface, respectively). A 10-fruit subsample was selected following color sorting and evaluated for firmness and soluble solids concentration (SSC). All cultivars tested (`CVN1', `Loring', `Bounty', `Summer Gold', `Sunprince', `Cresthaven' and `Encore') experienced significant increases in percent red surface when film was used in 1998 and 1999. This color improvement ranged from 16% to 44% (mean = 28%). On average, fruit from film were 4.2 N (0.9 lb force) softer and had 0.3% higher SSC than control fruit. Growers harvested more fruit earlier and in fewer harvests for film. Fruit size was not affected by film. Reflected solar radiation from film was not different in quality than incident sunlight. Film resulted in an increase in canopy air temperature and a reduction in canopy relative humidity during daylight hours.
author to whom reprint requests should be addressed, Department of Horticulture, Clemson University, Clemson, SC 29634-0375; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.