The growth of the annual Maluma Symposium, which starts this Wednesday, livestreamed and free of charge, has exceeded their wildest expectations, says Dr André Ernst of Allesbeste Boerdery (pictured right).
The symposium started nine years ago when a handful of avocado producers gathered to discuss a new cultivar, a spontaneous Hass hybrid that impressed with its precocity and its heat tolerance.
The cultivar, named Maluma after the farm where it was noticed, has since become a force in the South African avocado industry, displacing other early Hass cultivars.
Its heat tolerance was again tested this past summer, when an early summer heatwave caused fruit drop on many Hass blocks in South Africa, but not on Maluma. Elsewhere in the world, avocado producers are also looking for an early Hass that thrives on hot and dry conditions.
So much so, that this year there are around 60 delegates from abroad attending the symposium held at Hoërskool Merensky outside Tzaneen, representing all major avocado production countries in the world: Peru, Mexico, Spain, the United States, Chile, Israel, Australia and New Zealand, as well as countries like Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania.
Delegates to last year's Maluma symposium in an avocado orchard in the picturesque Letaba Valley
Apple industry is their reference point
“Our approach is to look at other fruit industries,” says Zander Ernst, marketing director of the Maluma, who has been trialling high-density, trellised avocado orchards, inspired by topfruit trellising. The apple industry is a particular reference point for Allesbeste. This year, the symposium’s guest speaker is Koos Badenhorst, author of the so-called Badenhorst Bible of principles for financial planning, based on two decades of best practices on Overberg fruit farms in the Western Cape.
The foray into high-density avocado production on trellis systems – which Allesbeste Boerdery is expanding to all of their new orchards, totalling 14ha at the moment – was inspired by high-density planting in apple orchards.
Zander Ernst in one of their high-density trellised orchards
Every year Zander Ernst offers a meticulous overview of their trellis trials of the past few years. Apart from its other merits, the open appearance of trellised avocado trees could enable automatic counting of fruit, through visual recognition software, and it is something that the farming enterprise is investigating.
Technology in agriculture
They’re not afraid of technology and every year they offer workshops on aspects of precision farming, with concrete, detailed references to their own farming practices and endeavours. This year Edrean Ernst, IT and systems director, will again deliver a synthesis of the past year’s experience of precision farming, specifically the creation of heat maps of orchards for harvest measurement.
Other presentations will provide an overview of the development of the Maluma avocado in Israel by Oren Wallach, nurseryman who was at last year’s symposium lauded for his pioneering work with the cultivar. Chilean PhD student Rodrigo Iturrieta Espinoza will discuss his doctoral work at the University of California, plotting the ‘language of the Maluma’. His work explains the particular precocity of the cultivar, says Dr André Ernst, and clarifies how that ability should be harnessed.
Of particular interest to South African producers, will be Paul van den Berg’s discussion of irrigation efficiency and electricity usage, including the possibility of running irrigation pumps on solar energy.
Dr Ernst, passionate plantsman, will discuss their long-running clonal rootstock trial where they have identified a number of rootstocks suitable to trellising, producing avocado trees that use space more sparingly.
On the second day delegates will again go on orchard tours, viz Nic Human’s avocado orchard under shade netting this year. Delegates get the chance to visit high-density, trellised avocado orchards.
An Allesbeste avocado orchard, established on steep slopes outside Tzaneen
Look at the symposium programme: http://symposium.maluma.co.za/images/Presentations.pdf
All of the presentations on the first day will be livestreamed on the Allesbeste Youtube channel:
Morning session: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-NeB-Fx-IM
Afternoon session: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NqezW5ixMMw
For more information:
Tel: +27 15 307 3076