South African baboons discover new citrus cultivar
Baboons in South Africa’s Western Cape have been credited with discovering a new variety of soft citrus that has a high sugar content and is ready for harvest three weeks before other varieties, local new site news24.com reported
The troop of baboons descended from surrounding mountains each year and targeted a specific tree--one of thousands--on ALG Estates citrus farm, and then ate all the fruit off the tree before any other tree was ready for harvest, the report said.
"At closer inspection we discovered that the brix (sweetness grade) of this particular minneola, a soft citrus variety, was much higher than the rest of the orchard and that it started bearing fruit at least three weeks earlier than expected," the report quoted ALG production director Alwyn van der Merwe as saying.
The farm owners have now grafted shoots from the tree and along with the country's Citrus Growers Association (CGA) are multiplying the trees in greenhouse tunnels. The growers look to start testing them in orchards in two years and after four years will be able to officially register the variety.
"We were lucky that the baboons' acute sense of smell led them to this particular tree. It was clearly a case of a spontaneous mutation in the orchard, which would have gone unnoticed were it not for the baboons. I'm sure they will have a feast one day when we produce a whole orchard of these early sweet minneolas." Van der Merwe added.
The ALG Estate farm has the longest growing season in South Africa, nearly 10 months, and currently houses 26 citrus varieties on 600 hectares. The owners, brothers Gerrit and All van der Merwe, were named South Africa’s best farmers of 2010.