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Succeeding with Flash Gala: Tips from a top producer

Even though Bigbucks/Flash Gala’s most discerning characteristic is its glossy full-red colour, Ross Heyns, grower from Glenfruin near Grabouw, prefers to treat it as a bi-colour apple.

“I think it is the key to success, as managing light throughout the tree is just as important as with bi-colour varieties. This leads to better fruit colour and ultimately more fruit in the Flash Gala colour specification,” he explains, adding that they are seeing good early yields with a high class 1 pack-out percentage.

Ross planted his first orchards in 2018, with subsequent plantings in 2019 and 2020. He now farms a total of 6.7 ha of Bigbucks. While the majority of his orchards are not yet full bearing, he averaged 54 tonnes per hectare during the past season. When adjusting the yield to the age of the trees, it is equivalent to approximately 82 tonnes per hectare.

“Bigbucks enables early cropping with a high crop load. Young trees produce good-quality fruit, provided your nutrition programme takes the early yields into account.”

Interestingly, Ross chose a mix of rootstocks, including M9, M7, MM109, and G969, but found that higher-density plantings with narrower trees work best to ensure even maturity in the tree and better colour.

“The M9 planting, with closer tree plantings of 3.5 m x 1 m, gives us better colour, more uniform maturity, and larger fruit size. We have had very good early results from our MM109 (3.5 m x 1.5 m) block as well, while G969 (3.5 m x 1.25 m) performed poorly,” he says.

He prefers to pick each orchard twice, rather than strip picking.

“Two picks result in better average maturity and better colour,” Ross explains.

Bigbucks is known for its ability to colour early, making it tempting to pick too early when the apples are not yet mature. But Ross urges that taste, colour grade, and fruit colour all improve if it is harvested during the optimum window.

“Two picks help to ensure that the first fruit is not over-mature while you wait for colour on the rest of the fruit.”

The dark-coloured fruit, especially on branches that bend with crop-loading in the growing season, can be susceptible to sunburn, but bending semi-permanent branches in spring helps to alleviate this, Ross advises.

As a Kromco producer, Ross is excited about the marketing opportunities for Flash Gala and Bigbucks.

“The reception that Bigbucks has received in India is a positive sign. However, it is not a standard Gala and shouldn’t be marketed as such. The taste profile and eating experience seem to be different, offering the chance to be marketed distinctly. I think it is important that the Flash Gala brand manages the internal quality, especially maturity, of the fruit as well as the cosmetic aspects to ensure consumers continue to buy the fruit.”


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