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Disciplined production and marketing allow for bright future for Bigbucks/Flash Gala

It has been thirteen years since Buks Nel discovered the coveted Bigbucks apple variety in an orchard near Grabouw and since it became the fastest-growing variety ever planted in South Africa.

With about 2.5 million trees in the ground, of which the majority are still young, producers are getting better acquainted with the variety each season.

“As the first full-red Gala-type apple in South Africa, producers had a healthy appetite to plant Bigbucks. It was the fastest-growing variety ever in South Africa, and within five years, about two million trees were established. The uptake was incredible,” says Calla du Toit, pome producer from the Witzenberg Valley and chairperson of the Bigbucks Growers Association.

With any new variety, it takes time for producers to learn about it and get the best results.

“Bigbucks is an exceptional variety with the genetic potential to realise sky-high on-tree pack-out percentages. If you have disciplined production, handling, packing, and marketing, it is not impossible to export 80-90% of the apples on the tree.”

With only about 5% of fruit culled in the orchard, De Kock Hamman, technical advisor at Ceres Fruit Growers, believes Bigbucks are excellent for driving on-farm profits.

The allure of the lovely wine-red variety is evident. Calla points out that the industry has learned valuable production and marketing lessons over the past few years, making the future even brighter for Bigbucks.

“Bigbucks apples colour well, no matter where they are planted, but to market them under the Flash Gala brand, we aim to have at least 80% high-intensity colour and high fruit pressures,” he explains.

As with any apple variety, producers should consider their altitude, cold units, water availability, soil type, and the macro- and micro-climates on their farms before deciding on a site to establish an orchard, De Kock emphasizes. Cooler sites are preferred.

“Nets can be considered in warmer areas to avoid sunburn or heat damage,” is his advice.

The variety’s unmatched genetic ability to colour will serve producers well and deliver high pack-outs, even in challenging years or on suboptimal sites.

“Due to the full-red colour of the apples, it could be challenging to determine picking ripeness,” says Calla, and urges producers to use scientific methods when deciding on the ideal harvesting date.

“Parameters indicating optimal ripeness, such as fruit pressure and starch conversion, should be considered to ensure a positive eating experience.”

Keeping to the optimal picking date is critical, even if it means harvesting twice in the same orchard.

It is also important to adhere to the Flash Gala standards, as set out in a special industry handbook.

“The success of the variety depends on the ability of the industry to cooperate. For example, the handbook stipulates that the apples should be stored for two weeks before packing. Disciplined production and marketing remain key.”


For more information, please contact Lucille Botha at or visit Follow Flash Gala on Facebook (@flashgalaapples) or Instagram (flash.gala).