The use of anti-hail nets on orchards changes the microclimate underneath the net. This might be of great importance in apple growing regions characterized by high radiation levels and hot and dry climates during the summer season. But, depending on the net colour and on the local climatic conditions, the shade promoted triggers different responses by the trees. Grey and black anti-hail nets were applied in an apple orchard (cv. 'Golden Delicious') located in Northeast Portugal. Under the nets a lower concentration of glomalin related-soil proteins was observed, along with an improvement on trees water status, stomatal conductance, net photosynthetic rate, total chlorophylls, N, Mg, Fe and Cu concentrations, as well as an increase in mean fruit weight. The major difference between nets was on the photosynthetic efficiency, being higher on black net in sunny days, while grey net performed better under cloudy conditions. The use of netting systems proved to be effective in improving "Golden Delicious" apple trees performance under a Mediterranean climate, mainly when the radiation reaching the plants surpass the tree saturation point for photosynthesis. Therefore, these findings anticipate solutions for current and forecasted negative effects of climate change.
Keywords: foliar metabolites; glomalin-related soil proteins; minerals; photosynthesis; water relations; yield.