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Impact of Exclusion Netting Row Covers on ‘Honeycrisp’ Apple Trees Grown under Northeastern North American Conditions: Effects on Photosynthesis and Fruit Quality

Chouinard, Gérald, Veilleux, Jonathan, Pelletier, Francine, Larose, Mikael, Philion, Vincent, Joubert, Valentin, Cormier, Daniel
Insects 2019 v.10 no.7
Malus domestica, apples, color, cracking, environmental factors, firmness, fruit quality, fruit trees, fruits, insect pests, netting, pest control, photosynthesis, row covers, seeds, soil, sugar content, Quebec
Exclusion nets have been used successfully to protect fruit from insect pests of apples under various conditions, but the effect of each particular netting system on the plant itself has rarely been investigated. In this study, a complete exclusion system—in which the soil is also excluded—was used to grow ‘Honeycrisp’ apples for six years in southern Quebec, Canada. Abiotic conditions, as well as plant photosynthesis and fruit quality characteristics (colour, firmness, size, sugar content, number of seeds, ripeness and skin integrity) and yield were estimated yearly and compared in netted (either with or without a rainproof top) and unnetted row units. Although annual variations were high and results showed little or no difference between netted and unnetted rows for all measured variables, with the following exceptions; colour (increased red surface on fruits from unnetted rows some years), size (fruits from unnetted rows were smaller) and maturity (fruits from unnetted rows matured slightly faster). Fruits produced under nets had fewer microcracks at the surface than fruits produced without nets. Reduced cracking possibly helped decrease sooty blotch and flyspeck incidence and severity. Impacts for pest control and prospects for pesticide-free production are discussed.