Spatial and Temporal Enhancement of Colour Development in Apples Subjected to Reflective Material in the Southern Hemisphere


(1) Background: Climate change associated with a warm autumn often hampers the development of colouration of many fruits including late ripening apple varieties in New Zealand. (2) Objective: This study will provide detailed information on the possibility of enhancing colouration of apples under the diffuse light conditions in autumn in the southern hemisphere (SH). The aim is to obtain a larger proportion of fruit meeting the (red) colour market specifications, especially within the first picks, and to identify both the side of the fruit and its position within the tall trees canopy (3.5 m) as affected by reflective mulch on the ground spread at and over different times. (3) Material and methods: Reflective white textile mulch (Extenday®) was spread in the grassed alleyways 4 weeks or 2 weeks before the anticipated harvest in April on cv. Fuji and Pacific Rose apple trees without hail nets in the Northern Part of the South Island (41° S) of NZ. Fruit colour (blush) was determined by scoring and colourimeter during fruit maturation and at harvest, and fruit quality was determined at harvest by standard methods. (4) Results: (a) In cv. Pacific Rose apple, the reflective mulch increased the scored blush value from 1.5 ( extless50% blush) to 3.9 (ca. 75% blush) before the first pick, whereas the control fruit (without ExtendayR) reached a final score value of only 3.0. (b) Fruit colour improved after one week of exposure to reflective mulch in the SH. (c) The scored blush on fruit near the trunk with reflective mulch doubled (Pacific Rose) or tripled (Fuji) at harvest in comparison with trees with grass alleyways (control). (d) Two and four weeks of reflective mulch enhanced colouration of the down facing side for fruit of both cultivars, especially for fruit from the inside of the canopy near the tree trunk. However, reflective mulch significantly improved blush by 20% on fruit from the periphery of the canopies of the tall trees in both cultivars without significantly affecting fruit firmness, soluble solids, starch breakdown or ripeness. (5) Conclusions: The results from ca. 2000 colour measurements showed that the short exposure of at least two weeks of reflective mulch was sufficient for enhancing colouration for outside, inside and down facing sides of the fruit of both cultivars. As a result of this surprisingly short and efficient exposure time for these tall trees (3.5 m), the reflective mulch increased the portion of fruit harvested in the first pick by 8% (Fuji) and by 27% (Pacific Rose) with improved fruit storability or export quality and thereby increased financial returns to the grower in the SH.