Innovative Strategies for the Use of Reflective Foils for Fruit Colouration to Reduce Plastic Use in Orchards


(1) Background: Plastic in fruit orchards represents an environmental issue due to large CO2eq emissions associated with its production from fossil fuel and disposal (often incineration). (2) Materials and methods: Apple cv. “Braeburn Hillwell” trees on M9 rootstocks under a hail net were used at Campus Klein-Altendorf (CKA), Germany (50 °N) in 2018. In order to reduce the use of plastics to improve the red colouration of fruit particularly under hail nets, three alternatives to the current use of reflective mulch in each alleyway between the tree rows were explored, with uncovered grass alleyways as control. About 2800 colour measurements were done in the four weeks prior to harvest on 720 attached fruit below and above 1 m height in the field, and ca. 6900 additional colour measurements were conducted at harvest. (3) Results: The underlying regulatory mechanisms contrasted between the diffusive reflection of the white woven ground cover (such as LumilysTM or ExtendayTM) in the alleyways and aluminium foil under the trees with regular (straight) light reflection. Good fruit colouring and a plastic reduction were achieved (a) through spreading the white woven ground cover in every other row, and (b) through substituting the white ground cover with aluminium foil (80% recycled). Both methods can reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (75–110 kg CO2eq/ha for the first option a). (4) Conclusion: Plastic use in fruit orchards can be reduced by multiple use of the material in the same or several years, spreading it in every other row or substituting it by another reflective material, a relevant step towards an environment-friendly sustainable horticulture.

Sustainability, (13), 1,