Skip to content
Figure 9 Selection Of Royal Beaut Budwood

Royalty in the orchard: Searching for Stability in an Unstable Environment

By Waheed Mahomed

The past few years have been a time of instability that many people find unfamiliar and leave us feeling insecure. Instability often leads to an increase in uncertainty, discourages investment and negatively impacts any product or system in which instability is identified. During these eras of instability, it is necessary to reflect and highlight areas of stability to keep us well grounded. The humble apple is also subject to questions of stability, and includes aspects such as shape stability, bearing stability, storage stability and perhaps most importantly, colour stability. It is during these unstable times and in our search for stability that we reflect upon Royal Beaut, a mutation of Royal Gala.

The Royal Gala apple itself is a mutation of the Gala apple that was selected for its darker red skin colour. Royal Gala was found as a branch mutation on a Gala tree by Bill Ten Hove in New Zealand in 1969 and by 1990, two million cartons of Royal Gala were produced in New Zealand annually. Gala The discovery of Royal by Bill Ten Hove revitalized the New Zealand apple industry. Like all strains of Gala, Royal Gala has an aromatic taste but is prone to revert to a lesser desirable colour.

Figure 1 Original Royal Gala

Figure 1 Original Royal Gala mutation on a Gala tree in New Zealand

Gala types are inherently unstable, and reversions are generally noted in most types. The reversion to a poorer colour is not desirable as consumers do not generally possess good varietal knowledge and colour often serves as a cue for fruit quality. In a study on consumers’ preferences for Gala-type apples, appearance was the most cited word in the word association test.[1] This indicates that the colour of a Gala apple is a major factor in the consumer selection process. Traditionally a Gala is not a very attractive apple. It is therefore apparent that the selection for a good colour Gala is important as it can be directly linked to the sale of the variety in stores.

SAPO Trust imported various strains of ‘Royal Gala’ over the years and none were found to be better than locally selected ‘Royal Gala’ strains. During the late 1990s selection processes were improved which resulted in local branch mutations from ‘Royal Gala’ orchards being discovered and developed. Following this, ‘Royal Beaut’ was first discovered by Robert Zulch in Witzenberg district, Ceres, South Africa. The fruit of this well-renowned variety is characterised by its broad red stripes to full red colour and crisp, sweet creamy flesh. The variety of flowers is from the first week in October and is ready to harvest towards the end of January. The selection was deemed a new variety and was granted a Plant Breeders Right in 1996 (PBR grant number ZA 961530). It is safe to say that since the discovery of the Royal Gala, the discovery of Royal Beaut has been the most significant finding in South African Gala history. Robert Zulch can be described as South Africa’s own Bill Ten Hove, and the impact of his finding on the Gala variety is just as significant as Bill’s.

Robert Zulch

Pictured here, Robert Zulch.

Download the full article here.


Back To Top