The Dream

Dan Lynch Manager Redwood Orchards Ltd
discusses growing BERICA & MONDAJU

Ever since I became involved with my parents in the running of Redwood Orchards, the search was on for the elusive early season variety that pulled demand, looked, eat and kept well, and was easily grown! But it seemed this was a bit of a dream.

We tried hard with several new arrivals over a long period. Fiesta looked promising but fizzled out through poor returns, difficult handling, and mediocre looks. We continued planting various strains of Royal Gala mainly by default without any alternative, watching the hugh expansion worldwide and variability in appearance and taste. Cox Orange profitability became strained with low returns and yields per hectare. Goldens could be grown easily but became a struggle in the market. One bright light was Pacific Beauty, but I soon realised it was too difficult to grow commercially in our region.

I’d been casually watching the increasing areas of trial plantings Bill had forever been grooming , culling, and replanting. These trial blocks were often a bit of a pain to me in managing them and a problem basket during harvest. His focus was to find that dream early Apple with outstanding taste and looks, easy to grow and good paying….. Big call I thought.

About 10 years ago a couple of new promising looking early apples emerged out of his trial blocks, and we began to plant them out onto new blocks to have a serious look at them under commercial conditions. The rest is history, as the two finalists of that era are now the emerging new varieties BERICA & MONDAJU.

As the trial blocks increased in size I began to learn more about the apples. I soon realised that Both are really grower friendly. The tree growth habits are moderate vigour with flatfish branches before tying down and they are naturally heavy fruit setters.

I have not experienced any abnormally challenging plant disease issues, except for powdery mildew, which seemed to have a liking for both in trials so far. The trees and fruit are susceptible to black spot (scab) I suspect no different to gala strains, as I have seen an odd Apple infected.

Flowering is heavy with strong return bloom and petal thinning is necessary. I used ana at 15 mls at 60% petal fall, followed by a second application 10 days later at 10 mls for quite good results. Hand thinning to size was done early January.

The pest and disease programme is very much run of the mill, and only powdery mildew seems to require special interest with regular fungicide attention for good control.

Pollination was good with natural cross-pollination available from a range of nearby varieties, and fruit-set heavy necessitating additional secondary chemical thinning.

Size and foreground colour development is unspectacular until about a month out from harvest. They seem to “switch on” in spectacular fashion and it becomes obvious these are uniquely different varieties from the former Heritage Gala and Royal Gala , with its many shapes and strains. The appealing vivid pinks in the colours stand out alone like beakons in the orchard at this stage and move well ahead of Royal Gala. They are spectacular and hard not to keep your eyes off them.

Harvest Time

In the 2016 harvest both BERICA and MONDAJU presented harvestable fruit well ahead of our Royal Gala, which in comparison struggled for colour. I’d say they are somewhere in the region of 8 to 10 days ahead of Royals, and a lot easier select picking.

We trialled a few small 10m strips of extenday TM and typically managed a greater % off from the first pick, but no great noticeable increase in colour on individual fruits. The grade standard colour was set at 75% minimum bright pink/orange foreground, with mild cheddar background. This was easily achieved. I think we will do more extenday TM work next year to see if it will bring the harvest date forward 4 or 5 days. If we could achieve this it could give us a 2 week advantage over Royal Gala strains, plus give us all the advantages and more of Pacific Beauty. That would provide a fantastic strategic opportunity.

Berica pre-harvest 2015

Early February MONDAJU pre-harvest 2016

BERICA with extenday TM trial 2016

The harvesting was very much in tune with the delight in working with these uniquely beautiful fruit. The spectacular vivid colours make it a pleasure to be in the blocks, and they look so attractive on the tree it seems a shame to remove them!

Fruit handling is very much standard practice with no apparent bruising issues compared to other varieties.They come off the tree OK, although their long stems require attention to lifting up. We noticed an  incidence of stem end splitting this year not experienced previously. This was probably exacerbated by 150 mm rain the week before harvest commenced following a severe drought.

Colour development between the 2 picks was good. Fruit in the bin looked spectacular, and we had it treated with Smartfresh TM at Thawleys nearby.


Packing was undertaken at Pete and Pippa Hansen’s pack house near Motueka in May. They were easy to grade and pack and a spectacular display of colour. The pack out was 92% of a total harvest. 82% of the fruit was count 100 and larger.

berica packing at Midland Packers 2016

In storage we found keeping quality excellent. At 100 days the vividness of the colours and the flavours intensify. The colour of Royal Gala and other varieties we stored long term seemed to “dull”, with taste remaining static. Last year we trialled storage to 285 days with excellent results. We plan to run a CA trial next harvest. It seems they will store and travel particularly well

Harvested Berica in Bin 2nd pick 2016

Berica 285 days post harvest 2015

I realise I risk the allegation of being biased having been pretty close to the action with these inventions, but I have also been the greatest critic of Bill’s plant breeding  exploits over along time and have watched an awful lot of “firewood” result! On the other hand I’ve had the drop on all other growers seeing and experiencing the growing aspect from the ground floor, and as time went by my criticism has turned into excitement.

Purely as a grower I can’t hide my excitement at the prospects of filling the orchards long dreamed of “missing link”. It’s the most exciting future planning opportunity I have, to establish a large volume of exceptionally attractive easy to grow fruit where we have until now suffered from an unfillable gap. This is the time in the harvest when staff are fresh and abundant, the weather’s fine and the markets are hot. I’m planning to replace all our Royal Gala blocks systematically, because they won’t be able to compete with the more attractive appearance and taste, and by all accounts Royals are fast heading for becoming the worlds next produce commodity. But the prospect of having an excellent alternative to Pacific Beauty is way beyond my dream.

Dan Lynch

Manager Redwood Orchards Ltd

021 765 167

The Results

Berica compared with Heritage Gala & Royal Gala