Prepared by Brian Berkman, Tru-Cape Fruit Marketing
The South African 2023 picking season of FLASH GALA ™, the fruit from the Bigbucks tree that has greater than 80% colour, has come to an end.
Anthony Rawbone-Viljoen, a veteran grower at Oak Valley Estate in Elgin, and one of the holders of Plant Breeder’s Rights (PBR) for Bigbucks and FLASH GALA ™, says that picking at 25% starch breakdown will produce the best possible packout – the highest number of marketable FLASH GALA ™ apples.
“At Oak Valley Estate we, like in Ceres and the Langkloof, were also hit by damaging hailstorms late last year that affected all our crop quality. We were unfortunate to be one of the few farms in Elgin to suffer damage. In addition to fruit damage, we experienced mixed on-tree maturities leading up to harvest. This past season will go down as a difficult maturity year for all Gala strains, complicated further by a shortage of bins that interfered with the harvesting schedule. Growers should, under all circumstances, stick to the starch breakdown recommendation in the Bigbucks quality manual. The apples should be picked at as close as possible to the 25% starch breakdown target to ensure optimum shelf life for the fruit. All fruit should be cold stored using SmartFresh (1-MCP) as per the recommended protocols to retard ripening and, in addition, the use of ReTain prior to harvest to assist with fruitset has been effective in leading to firmer fruit at harvest. Fruit colour in Elgin was exceptional on all Galas this season. However, it is certain that Bigbucks will enjoy a major advantage with packouts in a poor colouring year, even more so than during the past season where conditions favoured good colouration all around,” he says.
According to De Kock Hamman, Technical Advisor to Ceres Fruit Growers, the hailstorms in November had reduced the number of FLASH GALA™ bins received. “We received 34% less bins of FLASH GALA™ than in 2022, of which 64% is from the Warm Bokkeveld at 460m above sea level and 36% from the Koue Bokkeveld area which is between 850m and 1100m above sea level. The higher altitude colour is historically better.
“Despite the challenges we’ve had with quality this year, the colour of the fruit was still good. As the trees get older and in some cases more dense, there is some fruit that is paler in colour. The correct pruning is now important to increase the light within the trees for good colour development.
“The packouts were a bit lower this year because of hail damage and other quality factors, but despite the drop in packouts, Bigbucks and Royal Beaut are still our preferred Gala varieties to plant,” Hamman ends.
Rawbone-Viljoen says that in terms of marketing, last year 277,000 cartons of FLASH GALA were sold in Far Eastern markets, whilst India took in 50,000 cartons. “However, we are now dealing with multiple new enquiries for the fruit from India. The main international markets for FLASH GALA ™ are the Far East where China, Malaysia, and Vietnam feature, the Middle East especially the United Arab Emirates, and, in Asia, in India specifically the variety has shown impressive growth. In West Africa too the fruit has found favour with consumers,” Rawbone-Viljoen ends.
See bigbucksapples.com for all the technical specifications and brand requirements.