Big trees are no obstacle to hail nets
Hail is such a serious problem in Chihuahua that most of the state’s orchards are protected by nets.
Salvador Corral, president of La Norteñita, a major growing and packing operation in Cuauhtémoc, planted his first apple trees in 1968, and now has 5,000 acres of orchard. Some of the original seedling Golden Delicious trees are still producing well today, generating 70 to 80 bins per acre. The size of the trees hasn’t deterred the company from covering them with nets to protect them from the frequent hailstorms that hit the area.
How frequent? To company horticulturist Horacio Gonzalez, it sometimes seems that every time it’s cloudy, it hails.
The seedling Golden Delicious are planted on an 8 meter by 8 meter (26- by 26-foot) spacing, and the nets above them are 8 meters high. Gonzalez estimates that it costs about $15,000 per hectare ($6,000 per acre) to cover such a large orchard with netting, including the cables, wires, and posts, though the cost for the average orchard is closer to $11,000 a hectare ($4,500 per acre). The netting lasts about eight years.
It is placed over the trees in June by workers wearing harnesses and working from tall, aluminum ladders. The netting is taken off at harvest and buried in pits alongside the orchard to protect it during the winter.