Last winter, Mts. Steijn-Bal bought its first mobile anti-night frost machine from FrostFans. This Dutch farm has 14 ha pears and five of apples. Grower René Bal is pleased with the machine's first practical application. "It ran for 40 hours in the spring. The big advantage is that you put it on standby, and it does its job. That makes a big difference compared to all the effort that goes into irrigation. Many growers in this area can't do that anymore either,' he says.
"A few years ago, I visited a fellow farmer who'd installed a fixed fan. But our council wouldn't allow us to get something similar. Then we came across Frostfans' (Swift international) mobile machine. These machines are imported [to the Netherlands]. The company's partner, Zeelandtrac, sells them. This close-at-hand service is an added advantage."
These mobile night frost machines use an old principle. It sucks the inversion layer's warm air down. It's then mixed with the cold air at ground level. The propeller is directly driven. So a relatively small engine (23.7 HP diesel) is enough to create enormous air movement. It can protect up to 4.5 hectares. "It has a clear effect. For example, we measured the temperature at a height of eight meters up the mast. It was three to four degrees warmer up there," says René.
Mts. Steijn uses the mobile night frost machine in its pear orchard. "It's truly remarkable how good the pears' quality - production and peel - is. That's compared to our plots where we don't use the machine. Night frost irrigation usually affects skin quality. That can sometimes lead to roughening."
High suitable for pear cultivation
René intends to buy a second machine for the pears. "For apples, sun damage is an important consideration to irrigate, if you can. That damage is possibly a greater risk than night frost. However, we don't irrigate our pears during the summer. This mobile fan is, therefore, a great option. We'll go for a larger machine next time. That suits our farm well. We'll use the bigger one in our six-hectare orchard. And the smaller machine on the three-hectare area," he says.
"In this region, there are now many of these machines. We try to learn from each other's experiences. This week, for instance, we're going to visit several growers who have this fan. We'll compare weather pole data. Everyone's still on the journey of discovery. You can't place such a machine blindly," adds Bal. "There are all kinds of things to consider. Like the degree of frost and orchard location. As well as positioning the machine for the right wind direction."
"I'm also getting lots of questions from farmers in the central Netherlands who can irrigate. They're curious about how the machine works." René's also a fruit cultivation advisor at Delphy. "I'm not a Frostfans agent. But, in daily practice, I do consider it a positive addition to the package of growing resilient fruit," René concludes.
It's Dé Appeldag (The Apple Day) on Thursday, July 8, 2021. This is at the Van Den Brink farm in the Netherlands. A larger model of the machine will be demonstrated at stand number 30. It can reach up to seven hectares.
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