Italy: Good profits for organic pears grown under nets

If fruit cultivation is done correctly, it is still profitable: thirty hectares of organic pears are just as profitable as 900 hectares of arable land (wheat, to be precise). Cab Massari in Conselice (RA) covers 2400 hectares in total. In the past, it owned up to 600 hectares of orchards.

"Single-thread nets were a turning point for us. Organic 65+ pears sold at €1.30 per kg. Yields were like those of a traditional orchard, so we're very pleased. There are no fluctuations and these are the average figures obtained each year. Before installing nets, our costs to protect plants against codling moths were very high, not to mention after the brown marmorated stink bug hit us," explained technicians Alfredo Pigliacampo and Fabio Zannoni.

The varieties grown are Abate, Kaiser, William, Conference, Packham. At the moment, around twenty hectares are covered by nets but they increase each year as costs are not high and partners are very pleased with the results.

"We've calculated around €10 thousand per hectare to purchase the nets and 2500-3000 for the labor needed to install them. A producer doing it himself can probably reduce the cost of labor. We've placed nets even on 25-year-old orchards. We didn't add poles, we've used existing ones or plants. They are very easy to install and can even be closed at the bottom if needed."

Pear producers asked to know how the various phases are managed, harvesting in particular. Pigliacampo explained that harvesting carts are equipped with an arch that lifts the net and closes it when finished. The same goes for bins. Nets of this type have a growth retardant effect on plants, so grades are larger.

"We've been producing organic pears for 20 years but it was hard in the beginning as productivity was low. In order to grow produce organically, the micro-environment must be balanced. For example, grass is rather tall at the moment so we can host useful insects. Biological control insects are more effective under nets because they do not disperse."

Cab Massari
Via Puntiroli 5
48017 Conselice (Ravenna)

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