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- Author or Editor: Jonathan Toye x
In semiarid apple (Malus domestica) growing regions, high temperatures and excessive solar radiation can increase the risk of sunburn development. Protective netting is increasingly used as a cultural practice under these conditions to mitigate fruit sunburn losses. However, fruit skin color development can be negatively affected under protective nets due to the reduction in light availability. Reflective groundcovers have been previously reported to increase fruit color development, particularly in the inner parts of the tree canopy. Here, we compared two types of reflective groundcover: a woven polyethylene fabric and a film material with a grassed control without reflective material under a protective netting installation that reduced photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) by 17%. The experiment was conducted in a semiarid climate on a 5-year-old ‘Cameron Select Honeycrisp’ apple orchard near Quincy, WA. Light penetration into the canopy was measured with a PAR sensor. At harvest, fruit quality, yield, and size were assessed. The use of reflective groundcover between the rows significantly increased reflected PAR into the lower canopy. Moreover, reflective groundcovers significantly increased the amount of fruit with greater than 25% skin red color compared with the control. Reflective groundcover did not affect fruit weight, yield, and fruit number. The use of reflective groundcover under protective netting can increase light penetration into the canopy, thereby improving fruit skin red coloration in apple.