THE first commercial use of grape covers in Western Australia is a step closer, offering a potential boost to the state’s $25 million table grape industry.
The Department of Agriculture and Food hosted a recent field day in the Swan Valley for industry and growers, focused on grape covers technology.
Department table grape specialist Colin Gordon said grape covers were used to protect bunches from rain between version – the onset of ripening – and the end of harvest.
“Covers reduce fruit splitting and the subsequent risk of infection by the fungus botrytis cinerea, which means a better yield and lower harvest costs for growers and better quality fruit for consumers,” he said.
The Department undertook research funded by the Agricultural Produce Commission (APC) in 2012-13 to investigate the feasibility of installing grape covers on the most widely used trellis system in WA, known as ‘link’ trellis.
The study demonstrated that grape covers could be successfully installed to ‘link’ trellis.
“Grape covers are used in other parts of the world, such as Europe, USA and South America,” Mr Gordon said.
John Speer of Richdale Plastics was a guest speaker at the event, providing information about what variants of covers were available, and in which situation they should be used.
Samples of plastic films, including clear low density polyethylene (LDPE) with varying levels of opacity, and woven films were available for growers to inspect.
Other topics discussed included how to get the maximum useful life and performance out of the plastic, and a better understanding of what trellis modifications would be required and how to dispense, secure, retrieve and store the plastic.
Major merchandise suppliers to the table grape industry were all represented at the field day and will now work with the manufacturer and the growers to ensure that the first commercial use of grape covers in WA occurs this coming season in 2016-17.