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Agricultural Shade Cloth

Agricultural Shade Cloth Offers Balanced Thermal Protection

While, in South Africa, we all tend to enjoy our time in the sun, most of us are aware that consistent over-exposure can result in some unpleasant consequences. In the vast majority of cases, this amounts to little more than some temporary, if painful, superficial burning but, for those less fortunate, it could result in a disfiguring or even fatal skin cancer. Plants are no less susceptible to damage by the sun but, rather than anointing them with SPF 50, the preferred solution is to protect them with a breathable fabric known as agricultural or horticultural shade cloth.

This versatile material is far from restricted to use by farmers and horticulturists, however, and variants of it are to be found in related applications both in the home and in various exposed areas dedicated to recreational purposes such as outdoor restaurants and children’s playgrounds. Sail-shaped units are often seen in public areas such as open-air concerts where they serve to protect the performers or at exhibitions where they provide shelter for both the exhibits and the exhibitors.

Curiously, there is some similarity between this material and the sunscreen we apply to our bodies. Both are available as a range of products that are designed to provide varying degrees of protection. In the case of the skin preparations, this is readily achieved by regulating the concentration of absorptive or reflective compounds contained in the cream or lotion. For agricultural purposes, it is variations in the density of the woven or knitted shade cloth product and its colour that, collectively, are responsible for the differing degrees of sunlight filtration that they are able to provide.

The composition, colour and method of manufacture are all important factors that can affect the performance of this extremely useful material considerably. This is a product that offers users many benefits, particularly if the happen to be commercial growers. By convention, its performance is rated as a percentage and represents the proportion of the ambient light that is transmitted from above to the protected area beneath a given installation. Typically it is sold at ratings of between 30% and 90% and, as such, there should be a product to meet every possible requirement.

Making the Best Choice

Whether you intend to use it for recreational or agricultural purposes, the first decision to be made when purchasing shade cloth is whether to buy the woven or the knitted variety. Typically made from polypropylene, the woven product has the disadvantage that it may become easily unravelled if accidentally torn. It also has a tendency to sag and loose its shape while the material itself tends to be more susceptible to UV degradation than the knitted version. By contrast the lock-stitched structure of the latter makes it less likely to unravel and simple to repair. It is also considerably lighter and more UV resistant.

While its structure is mainly responsible for its durability, its colour actually influences performance. The more commonly-used black and white varieties are supplied at all ratings in 10% increments up to the maximum 90%, while other colours may need an additional layer if you hope to improve on 60% light reduction.

One particularly thermal-efficient product is made from high density polyethylene and is aluminium-coated to reflect both heat and light during daylight while retaining heat at night.

An exceptionally effective product is sold in South Africa by The International Group under the brand-name Landpak Agrishade. It is made entirely from HDPE filament and is the ideal choice for agricultural concerns as well as for commercial nurseries. This already highly durable shade cloth is treated with the latest UV inhibitors with the result that it should serve buyers for an expected minimum lifespan, in continuous use, of 8 years. This makes it an extremely cost-effective option. Though available in the standard 50m x 3m rolls, the Group also offers customised options.