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Flash Gala: Bigbucks Apple Variety Rapidly Gaining Popularity in India & Beyond

Flash Gala, the strikingly red apple from the Bigbucks tree, has gained popularity among South Africans who, like their global counterparts, are captivated by its perfect, cherry-red hue that sets it apart on supermarket shelves.

Shivam Dwivedi
Flash Gala: Bigbucks Apple Variety Rapidly Gaining Popularity in India & Beyond
Flash Gala: Bigbucks Apple Variety Rapidly Gaining Popularity in India & Beyond

In recent months, India has shown keen interest in the variety, with many requests for trees and additional information. Anthony Rawbone-Viljoen, one of the holders of the Plant Breeder’s Rights (PBR) to Bigbucks and FLASH GALA, notes that the variety has garnered widespread attention from local growers and marketers in India.

Nursery trees are being shipped directly to India from nurserymen in Italy, under the authority of ABCz Nursery in Belgium, who are the worldwide master licensees, except in sub-Saharan Africa where Pink Vein manages the process.

The FLASH GALA brand is being promoted globally using fruit grown in and exported from South Africa. Bigbucks has been established, or is in the process of being established, in various countries, including the EU, the USA (where Plant Patent Rights have been granted), and Australia. PBR for the variety Bigbucks is still pending in China, New Zealand, Chile, and India.

The process is time-consuming, as a licensee must be appointed for each country, followed by the supply of plant material. Trees then need to be made and planted in trial blocks. The fruit must thereafter be examined by the relevant authorities to obtain Plant Breeders Rights for each country individually. This process takes at least five years, after which the variety can be supplied to local nurseries for sale to growers.

India is the fifth-largest apple producing country in the world, with production mainly centered in the northern states of Kashmir and Himachal, located on the foothills of the Himalayas. A modernization process for orchard plantings, led by the Italians, has been underway in recent times, with rooted trees of modern cultivars being supplied to India. The proven ability of Bigbucks to develop exceptional colour in warmer areas presents an opportunity for the expansion of the variety in India, where the consumer preference is for red and sweet apples, making FLASH GALA the perfect fit for this market.

To qualify as a FLASH GALA apple, a Bigbucks fruit needs 80% surface colour in a continuous block and at least an average of 12% brix, a measure of sugar content, or greater. Pressures (a ripeness measure) of 6.8 kg\cm2 on arrival with not more than 25% below 6.3kg\cm2 or greater. Bigbucks' apples are already full red two-to-three weeks before optimum maturity, making it difficult for growers to judge when to harvest.

The background colour is virtually invisible, unlike in striped Galas, where it is a useful indicator of maturity. The advice is to assess fruit maturity and variation within the orchard through iodine testing of starch breakdown starting 14 days before anticipated harvest. Select and mark representative trees within the orchard, and if it is a large orchard or one that lacks uniformity, more trees should be selected. Collect seven fruit samples from each tree on fully grown trees, and less on young trees.

The aim is to pick Bigbucks within one or two picks. The technical manual contains further advice on root-stock selection and various treatments, and the latest and best practices are shared amongst working groups.

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