Tru-Cape Fruit Marketing announces discovery of new apple

Prepared by Brian Berkman Publicity

Tru-Cape Fruit Marketing, the largest marketer and distributor of South African apples and pears announces the discovery of Bigbucks – a new superior clone in the Gala family.

Buks Nel, Tru-Cape's varietal expert, made the find in an orchard on Oak Valley Estate on January 18, 2011. The apple, a mutation of Corder Gala, also a strain discovered by a Tru-Cape grower, is set to be successful because of its high colour and stability – two things that plague the Gala-type apple. Tru-Cape's managing director Roelf Pienaar says that like Royal Beaut, discovered by Robert Zulch on Wakkerstroom in the Witzenberg Valley in Ceres, Corder Gala by Derek Corder on Beaulieu in Grabouw and now Bigbucks by PJ (Buks) Nel, Tru-Cape continues to lead development of better strains and best growing practices. "We are incredibly proud of Buks as this discovery is the just reward of a lifetime of passion and commitment to the fruit industry and frequent orchard walks – something of a rarity nowadays," he says.

Nel explains: "Deep in its soul a Gala is an unstable varietal with between 5% and 50% 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. Another, albeit cosmetic improvement, is the deep full wine red 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 which also means a higher percentage pack-out (the number of fruit on the tree that meets the colour and size specification). Normally a Gala tree needs to be picked on three different occasions to find fruit of the right colour spec, now trees can be picked once.

"I have always had a soft spot for this New Zealand-bred variety by Bill Ten Hove (which we started to test here in the Cape in the 1970's as I remember how hard it was to convince the then Deciduous Fruit Board that Royal Gala had real potential in our South African apple industry. At the time, they thought it might be confused with an over-ripe Starking! A few of us believed in Royal Gala and in the Two-a-Day Group, one of the owners of Tru-Cape, we planted the first Royal Gala at Oak Valley Estates and grafted some trees on other farms within the Group. When I received the O.H.S. Reinecke medal from the Cape Pomology Society in 2000 for contribution towards the development of Royal Gala I thought of it more as a group effort', he reminisces.

Ceres grower Calla du Toit, Tru-Cape's procurement manager, assisted Nel with the registering of Plant Breeders' Rights (PBR), valid for 25 years. "Although the numbers are still being finalised, growers that purchase Bigbucks will pay a royalty to plant the tree and a levy on every carton of Bigbucks fruit being sold. Tru-Cape will manage this process and ensure the returns are shared among the PBR owners: Buks Nel, Derek Corder (as Bigbucks is a clone of the Corder Gala) and Anthony Rawbone-Viljoen of Oak Valley as Nel found the first fruit there.

According to Du Toit, Bigbucks trees planted in Ceres show the same potential as those planted in Grabouw so this varietal, with its more than 90% pack-out potential, is set to be the most significant find of the decade. This represents a 30% improvement over most. "Gala is among the most planted varietal in the world and there is every reason to think that the 1 700 Bigbucks trees currently in the ground and the 20 000 to be planted this next season, will grow exponentially. As indication of potential can be seen from the success of Royal Beaut of which more than 170 000 trees were planted last year."

Nel says that Bigbucks will be picked and stored 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. Although it will take some years before there is sufficient volume to market commercially, as trees normally take between five and seven years for full production, this is something to which we all can look forward."