Effects of shade nets on microclimatic conditions, growth, fruit yield, and quality of eggplant (Solanum melongena L.): a case study in Carnarvon, Western Australia

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protected cropping; net house; shade factor; semi-arid weather


Agriculture | Horticulture


Carnarvon has a hot, semi-arid climate with high temperatures and solar radiation during spring–summer, which damages crops and limits the production season for the local vegetable industry. Protective cultivation is one of the promising approaches to mitigate these adverse weather conditions and avoid the resulting damage to vegetable crops. This study, which is part of the protected cropping research program for vegetable crops in Western Australia, was conducted to understand how the shade nets of a protective net house modify the microenvironment affecting the growth, physiology, and fruit yield of eggplants, a model vegetable crop. The eggplant crop was grown under four light regimes, i.e., three shade factors (11%, 21%, 30%) and the open field. There were three replicated blocks under each light regime and four eggplant varieties that were randomized within the replicated blocks. Other experimental conditions, e.g., fertilising, irrigation, pest, and disease management and other cultural practices were identical across light regimes. The results showed that shade nets created different microenvironments inside the net house, with a large variation in the light intensity, affecting photosynthetic-related traits. Eggplants grew taller and bushier and gave higher fruit yield under shade compared to the open field. Overall, our data suggest that the 21% shade net appeared to be the most suitable for growing eggplants during the autumn to early spring period in Carnarvon. The future perspective of protected cropping technology for vegetable crop production in Carnarvon is also discussed.



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