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At the Root of Something Good

Many moons ago De Fynne nursery was in its nursery school stage in a backyard. It relocated to a property in Simondium but soon they outgrew that too before moving to Mooikelder Farm where they inherited a substantial plum orchard to boot. It being over its prime, the nursery kids saw a new plan. By Gerrit Rautenbach.

Mooikelder Farm is a 22ha farm on the northern outskirts of Paarl belonging to the Department of Rural Development and business partners, Jacky Goliath and Elton Jefthas, have been renting the farm since 2013. Due to the fact that 10 ha of the arable land was planted with plum orchards, they qualified for assistance from the Jobs Fund Initiative. “Our involvement was initiated through the Deciduous Fruit Development Chamber who saw an opportunity for our industry,” explains Elton.

However, season by season it became clear that the plum trees were done for. The cultivars did not even suit the soil. There was neglect. The upkeep started outranking the income. Still, their involvement with deciduous fruit was never done. They are revolutionaries. Although Jacky and Elton are fine nursery operators originally focusing on fynbos, they saw an opportunity to extend their nursery knowledge into the creation of top-class deciduous fruit rootstocks and the budding thereof.

Slowly but surely they started curbing the haemorrhage of the unproductive trees. But an old unproductive tree still has its uses. They end up being mulch. “At present we have cleared and treated 5 ha, stabilising the soil structure, suppressing potential diseases and started growing mother trees for plums and peaches. These trees are now in their third year of production and have at least another 10 years left, says Jacky.

From these base-trees they have a revolutionary method of producing rootstocks. The trees produce hardwood scions which are harvested and then they get rooted in tunnels. They can produce 50 000 rootstocks this way in a 10 x 30m tunnel and the rooting takes from one to three months, depending on the various cultivars. This process is much more controllable and makes the more complicated and tricky old style of rooting a lot easier, manageable and more foolproof. And thus more profitable.

Once the rootstocks are ready, there are two routes that Jacky and Elton follow. Firstly, they sell the rootstocks as is to nurseries, farmers and whoever needs rootstocks, but secondly, they use the rootstocks for orders they get for the budding of specific cultivars. It is a process of value-adding. It’s good to sell rootstocks, but it’s more profitable to sell the proper trees.

Being revolutionary only lasts so long, then you have to think out of the box again. So looking into the future, De Fynne is focusing on accommodating very complicated rootstocks that do not take to rooting that easily, but once it happens, offers a rootstock of substance, eventually offering a tree bearing fruits of note. It has been established that to be successful, these rootstocks and budded trees need to start off growing in bags. So if a farmer is looking for a cultivar grown on this specific tissue culture rootstock, De Fynne will bud and grow trees in specified bags for him. This holds another advantage for them: not only do they grow rootstocks themselves, but they diversify and offer budding and trees based on a variety of new generations and well-developed “outside” rootstocks.

This process is also an education for farmers. They are not used to purchasing new trees in bags, literally in bags. There is an immense amount of science behind these newfound trees but in the industry, they’re simply known everywhere as “sakkiebome”.

Be that as it may, it seems that Jacky and Elton at De Fynne do have revolutionary methods of producing new deciduous fruit trees in the bag. So to speak …


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