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Maluma Day confirms growing interest in avocado cultivar

The 8th annual Maluma symposium opened today with participants from the countries where Maluma avocado production is taking off, such as Israel, Peru and Australia, but also from a surprising range of places within South Africa: pear producers from the Warm Bokkeveld, citrus growers from the Eastern Cape, timber farmers from the border with Swaziland.

The Maluma is a precocious avocado which handles heat better than Hass, peaks at larger sizes (counts 14 to 22) and comes in early, before Hass.

Dr André Ernst of Allesbeste Boerdery, developers of the Maluma cultivar over the past twenty years, quipped that he was delivering a ‘Dear Hass’ letter in an industry that is still dominated by Hass, but where no other cultivar is showing the steep growth of Maluma which, he says, outperforms Hass in returns back on farm.

He gave an overview of the international commercialisation of the cultivar which last year accounted for a fifth of all avocado tree sales in South Africa. “Peru is perfect Maluma country, it fits Maluma like a glove,” he said, and Daniel Arispe of TAL SA told the audience of their decision to plant Maluma in the La Libertad region of Peru: “Compared to Hass, in our conditions, it’s wonderful. Fruit set can be a problem in Peru but never with Maluma, in our experience. We’ve never had results like these. We chose Maluma for its bigger yields, better fruit set, bigger size, no need for plant growth regulators and bigger, more attractive flowers – we notice that bees prefer Maluma flowers.”

Photo - Daniel Arispe

Australia is even ahead of Maluma’s native country in its marketing and brand development and it’s expected to be a success in Israel because of its fruit size. The EU application will hopefully come through this year.

In Chile, the plant material was finally released commercially in November last year after two and a half years of quarantine. In the USA, Mission Produce has been instrumental in getting Maluma into California, where it is now in its two-year quarantine period. Dr Mary Lu Arpaia of the University of California has been following the development of the Maluma with great interest since 2007 when Dr Ernst introduced it at the World Avocado Congress. "I think the Maluma will have great potential for the Californian avocado industry, especially in the San Joaquin Valley with its temperature extremes, because of Maluma's ability to handle heat, its fruit size and its growth structure with a central leader," she said. "I'm very happy we finally have Maluma material in California." 

Dr Mary Lu Arpaia of the University of California with Daniel Banai, an avocado and mango farmer in Israel 

Allesbeste Boerdery awarded trophies to two pioneers of the Maluma avocado, both nurserymen: to Oren Wallach of Israel and Graham Anderson of Australia.

Dr André Ernst of Allesbeste Boerdery handing over the Maluma pioneer awards to Oren Wallach of Israel and Graham Anderson of Australia

Participants in the Maluma Day were taken around to avocado orchards to look at examples of avocado production on steep slopes, the use of ridging given the soil types around Tzaneen, the innovative method of trellising avocados as well as their rootstock trial. Allesbeste believes that the future of avocado production, certainly Maluma production, lies in high density planting (up to 1,250 trees/hectare) coupled with dwarfing rootstocks to maximise yield efficiency and total tree volume.

At their rootstock trial with 28 different clonal rootstocks, where they have been identifying new rootstocks showing high potential, Maluma Day participants were tickled to see large hippopotamus footprints hardened in the mud. They graze in the rows between the trees at night, causing no damage to the trees.

Andrew Moolman of Group Editors in George and Dr Guy Witney (previously with the California Avocado Commission). There is brisk avocado expansion in the Southern Cape

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