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Fred Meintjes


Ceres makes apple breakthrough

Improved Gala and Fuji strains hold promise for South African topfruit industry

Ceres makes apple breakthrough

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Ceres grower Robert Zulch, the man who brought the South African industry the Royal Gala strain Royal Beaut some 25 years ago, is now breathing new momentum into the variety.

On top of this, Zulch has also brought forward a new Fuji mutation which is likely to make some impact on the business.

Originally, Royal Beaut was deemed to be of such significance that Zulch, of the farm Wakkerstroom, received Plant Breeder’s Rights (PBR) for the cultivar. However, despite Royal Beaut maintaining its popularity throughout the years, working with Gala types was not easy.

“Working with an unstable variety such as Gala types is a very big challenge," Zulch explained. "At one stage we had reversions and we did a lot of research locally and in Europe to develop a better way of selecting bud wood. We decided that none of the methods they use would work in our climate.”

This gave Royal Beaut a second life, he confirmed. “I believe the plantings of Royal Beaut will slow down as they are replaced, to some extent, by newer and better colouring ones.”

Zulch is pleased with the role the variety has played in the South African industry. “As a locally developed variety, Royal Beaut has played a significant role in our industry and, at one stage, more than 70 per cent of Gala plantings were Royal Beaut," he outlined "We even managed to be more than 20 per cent of Italian Gala plantings at one stage.”

The new Fuji mutation is expected to also create much interest. “We succeeded in getting a PBR for Fuji Royal and it will be managed by technical expert Buks Nel, Tru-Cape and myself," he continued. "Fuji Royal has very good colouration and is a very typical Fuji. We hope for higher pack-outs and less cracking.”

Zulch said that Fuji Royal showed promise as an improved strain that would deliver a better colour, higher packouts and hopefully fewer inherent quality issues that come with Fuji strains, such as stem-end cracking.

Buks Nel, Tru-Cape’s new variety specialist, is setting his own track record as a person bringing forth new cultivars. He successfully registered a PBR for Bigbucks, the improved Gala strain marketed as Flash Gala, as well as Shortie, a spur-type Fuji.

“In two or three years’ time we will have a sufficient volume of fruit to know if our projections of Fuji Royal staying true to type are correct," said Nel. "The leaf is a typical Fuji leaf but the blossom is different: The Fuji Royal blossom is pink while the typical Fuji blossom is white.”

Nel added that the good fruit size that early harvests of Fuji Royal promise, would be a further boost.

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