Innovative Ceres grower counts Royal Beaut and now Fuji Royal among improved apple strains
Twenty-five years ago agriculture in South Africa was a very different business. Before deregulation, when growers were rewarded more on volume rather than quality, one innovative grower, Robert Zulch on the Ceres farm, Wakkerstroom, noticed a branch mutation on a Gala tree.
This unique mutation was considered sufficiently different and Plant Breeder’s Rights (PBR) for Royal Beaut were granted to Robert Zulch.
Royal Beaut has maintained its popularity throughout the years, especially in the last decade or so. “Working with an unstable variety like Gala types is a very big challenge. At one stage we had more reversions and we did a lot of research locally and in Europe to develop a better way of selecting budwood. I took two people from SAPO to Europe to investigate how they do it. We decided that none of the methods they use would work in our climate. We agreed on a protocol for budwood cutting which we have used since then. This gave Royal Beaut a second life. I believe the plantings of Royal Beaut will slow down as they are replaced, to some extent, by newer and better colouring ones. As a locally developed variety, Royal Beaut played a significant role in our industry and, at one stage, more than 70% of Gala plantings were Royal Beaut. We even managed to be more than 20% of Italian Gala plantings at one stage. I think it will be very selfish to think one can have two Royal Beauts in one lifetime,” Zulch says about his latest discovery, a Fuji mutation.
“We succeeded in getting PBR for Fuji Royal and it will be managed by Buks Nel, Tru-Cape and myself. Fuji Royal has very good colouration and is a very typical Fuji. We hope for higher pack-outs and less cracking. “For me it is more for the love of it than the money. I make my money from producing fruit. Fuji Royal shows promise as an improved strain that will deliver a better colour, higher pack-outs and we hope fewer inherent quality issues that come with Fuji like stem-end cracking,” he says.
Buks Nel, Tru-Cape’s New Variety Specialist, successfully registered PBR for Bigbucks, the improved Gala strain, the fruit of which is being marketed as Flash Gala ™ as well as Shortie, a spur-type Fuji and now, PBR are shared between Tru-Cape and Robert Zulch for the Fuji Royal type. Zulch, a former winner of the Farmer of the Year title, an honour bestowed by the Agricultural Writer’s Association, is passionate about innovation and development of people and of growing techniques. “In two or three years time we will have sufficient volume of fruit to know if our projections of Fuji Royal staying true to type are correct. 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.”
“We are excited about the good sizing of Fuji Royal. The larger the fruit the higher the value we can expect so while I remain careful not to over sell Fuji Royal until we know for sure, I am optimistic about its future success.” Zulch ends.
Tru-Cape Managing Director Roelf Pienaar says the marketing company is blessed by having some of the very best growers, innovators and agriculturists on its team. “Growers such as Robert Zulch have helped Tru-Cape maintain our success and competitive edge and Royal Beaut and soon Fuji Royal have and will continue to contribute value.” he ends.