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Orchard netting saves apple crops from flying foxes and hail


PHOTO: It is six months since the NSW Government extended an orchard netting subsidy to growers outside the Sydney basin.(Courtesy: Apple and Pear Australia)

New South Wales orchardists taking up a State Government subsidy to install nets over their crops are discovering there are unexpected benefits to the protection from flying foxes.
It is six months since the government extended the subsidy to orchardists outside the Sydney basin.

Since then, a drape netting supplier in Orange says 15 new customers have installed nets and that has already resulted in several crops being saved, not only from flying foxes, but summer hailstorms.

Michael Cunial is also an apple grower at Nashdale, in the foothills of Mount Canobolas.

He said he has seen rows of apple trees wiped out by hail right next door to rows that were saved by netting.

"A lot of guys have got on board and it's just win-win," he said.

PHOTO: Nashdale apple grower and netting supplier Michael Cunial inspects the nets over his pink ladies. (Melissa Hamling)

"Not only just for bats, the same net is going to stop hail and a lot of other things that can go wrong to apples.

"People were faced with fines if they actually went out and shot these bats, now not having to worry about, they can actually sleep at night.

"We've got enough to worry about, so it's been a huge boost.

"If we look around us we can see nets, and that's a direct result, so it's good to see some funding that actually did the right job."

The netting Mr Cunial supplies is manufactured in China from HDPE (high density poly-ethylene) and can be sent to the client in a matter of days.

Drape netting costs around $10,000 per hectare compared to the traditional structural netting which set growers back $60,000 a hectare.

Mr Cunial said the lower cost, added to the 50 per cent subsidy from the government, makes installing netting a no-brainer.

"I use the analogy of if you were thinking of buying a new car and it instantly became half price, you wouldn't think any longer you'd just go and get it."

The Office of Environment and Heritage, which administers the funding for netting, said it has received more than 20 applications from growers in central west NSW.

A spokesman said the office has provided more than $4 million in subsidies state wide.

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Megabats and Microbats: Orchard netting saves apple crops from flying foxes and hail
Orchard netting saves apple crops from flying foxes and hail
Orchard netting saves apple crops from flying foxes and hail
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