Bigbucks, an improved Gala-variety apple strain discovered by well-known Cape apple expert, Buks Nel, has delivered a very high 93 per cent pack-out for the first 60-bulk bin harvest.
Nel, Tru-Cape Fruit Marketing’s new variety expert, said the company had hoped to achieve a 90 per cent pack-out, which would already be a 30per cent improvement on other Gala strains.
“So, to have delivered a 93 per cent pack-out - the percentage of saleable fruit from a single picking - is very impressive,” Nel explained.
Tru-Cape’s managing director Roelf Pienaar said the company continued to lead the development of better strains of apples and best growing practices.
“This discovery by Buks Nel is the just reward for a lifetime of passion and commitment to the fruit industry and frequent orchard walks - something of a rarity nowadays,” he said.
According to Pienaar, the first consignment of Bigbucks exported by Tru-Cape to Asia and Middle East arrived well and the initial feedback had been overwhelmingly positive. “Our customers are very excited about the potential of this variety. It is good news all around”, Pienaar said.
Pienaar said Tru-Cape is one of the leaders in the South African fruit export industry when it comes to investment in research and development. “To find someone like Buks Nel who has the experience and skill and who focuses entirely on finding and improving varieties, is not easy.”
Nel explained that “deep in its soul” a Gala apple is an unstable variety with between 5 per cent and 50 per cent of trees planted not being true to type. “Bigbucks is the exception, so growers know when they plant a Bigbucks tree they will always get Bigbucks fruit.”
He said that a further cosmetic improvement is the deep, full wine red colour that the fruit achieves from early in its life, while most Gala types are striped. “While redness is usually an indication of ripeness, with Bigbucks the fruit is full red from the start,” Nel adds. “Normally a Gala tree needs to be picked on three different occasions to find fruit of the right colour spec, now, if need be, trees can be picked once.”
Bigbucks has registered Plant Breeder’s Rights. For Bigbucks, these rights are registered by the company Pink Vein, in which Nel and Elgin growers Derek Corder and Anthony Rawbone-Viljoen own shares. Nel said the company takes its name from the characteristic pink vein that runs down the centre of the leaves of the tree like a life-giving artery.
According to a TruCape statement, the variety will be planted at a rapid rate. “In 2016 Tru-Cape growers planted 95 000 trees on 50ha and this winter we’ll plant 171 000 trees on 90ha,” noted Nel. “By next year we expect to have planted more than half a million trees on 300ha.”
Nel said Bigbucks will be picked and stored in the same way as other Gala types. “There is a myth that redder fruit has less flavour but this is an old wives’ tale. Bigbucks is beautiful to look at and delicious to eat.” he concludes.