SA horticulture producers are now able to apply for grants to install new or replace damaged netting, following more than five years of industry pushing for such a scheme to be created.
The grants are part of the $14.6 million Horticultural Netting Infrastructure Program, launched late last month, which will be delivered through two trials covering the Riverland area and the Adelaide Hills/Greater Adelaide area ($7.3m each), and be administered by PIRSA.
The scheme officially began on June 29, but will be backdated for eligible producers who have installed netting since December.
Eligible growers will be required to at least match the federal contribution and the grants will be capped at $300,000 (GST exclusive) per farmer.
Primary industries minister, Tim Whetstone, said the program was estimated to net almost 500 hectares of SA orchards.
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"Netting is a gamechanger for horticultural producers as it provides protection from the elements - sun, wind and hail - not to mention bats and birds," he said.
Apple and Pear Growers Association of SA chief executive officer and Cherry Growers SA executive officer Susie Green said nets cost an average of $60,000/ha, with the scheme assisting growers to fast-track future netting plans.
"Most growers in the apple and pear industry do have forward plans for netting, but it might be over the next 10 or 15 years," Ms Green said.
"This will enable them to bring that schedule forward, and net more area in a shorter timeframe.
"Nominally, the scheme is going to run for three years but I expect the funding will be used up in a shorter period than that, there is certainly a lot of interest."
Lenswood apple and pear grower Joel Brockhoff, Pomology at Tarrawood, has a 12ha orchard - of which 2ha are already covered by nets.
He hopes to net a further 2ha with the grant.
"We've been knocked around by hailstorms in the past two years, and to put nets up at this stage, when we've been financially weakened so much by these two seasons, is out of reach, but this grant will allow us to keep moving forward and put netting on our high value blocks," he said.
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