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Avocado world mourns the loss of Maluma visionary

The avocado industry is deeply saddened by the loss of Dr André Ernst, the visionary behind the Maluma avocado cultivar, developed by Allesbeste Boerdery in Tzaneen, Limpopo. He passed away yesterday in a hospital in Pretoria due to Covid.

Right: Dr André Ernst explaining the avocado trellis system in an Allesbeste orchard, Tzaneen

Dr Ernst was a mensch of unusual generosity of spirit who easily drew others into his enthusiasm which was one of the reasons behind the success of the annual Maluma Symposium, held free of charge. 

Participants from across the Southern Hemisphere and beyond were taken into the avocado orchards where the company was trialling high-density trellising systems. Allesbeste brought together international researchers on projects such as mapping the phenological language of the Maluma cultivar or avocado tissue culture and shared this research at the symposium with a non-academic audience.

Professor Neena Mitter, director of the Centre for Horticultural Science at Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation at the University of Queensland, shared her laboratory's experience in mapping a fully annotated genome for the avocado at last year's Maluma symposium.

She says: "The avocado industry has lost a champion, a true leader, and an innovator whose contributions to the industry will remain unparalleled for times to come! We have also lost a kind, generous, and vibrant person who brought smiles to all around him. He was an inspiration and knowledge hub to many of us in the research community." 

Dr André Ernst at the Maluma Symposium in March 2020

Maluma clonal breeding programme
The Allesbeste nursery was close to Dr Ernst's heart, where extensive trials into new-generation clonal rootstocks are running. He developed a micro-cloning technique which has been adopted by nurseries across the world.

His longtime collaborator Oren Wallach of Oren Nursery in Israel and a previous recipient of the Maluma pioneer award, has written: "André was a very unique person, a very good friend, generous, with a great sense of humour. His vision and passion for avocados influenced the whole avocado industry worldwide so much. He shared his enormous knowledge and experience with anyone and his death is a huge loss."

A legend in the avocado industry, always ready to share his knowledge and experience

"André was an integral part of the avocado industry (both locally and internationally) for four decades, and was passionate about research, propagation, production and marketing of avocados," says Derek Donkin, CEO of Subtrop. "His enthusiasm for all things avocado and his pioneering spirit, combined with a willingness to freely share his knowledge and ideas, are the basis of the legacy he leaves."

"There will never be a match for his absolute passion and dedication to avocados and superior quality," Allesbeste Boerdery has written.

He is survived by his wife Liezel and children Larissa, Zander, Edrean and Ronald. 

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