From left to right: Tru-Cape managing director Roelf Pienaar, Buks Nel, Tru-Cape New Variety Expert, Pieter Graaff, Tru-Cape chairman and former South African Farmer of the Year with Rossouw Cillié, Tru-Cape director and former South African Farmer of the Year
Somerset West resident Buks Nel, was chosen as the Western Cape Agriculturist of the Year, by the Agricultural Writers SA’s ! Xhariep region. He was honoured on Friday, October 18 at an event held in Stellenbosch.
These farmers and agriculturists will compete with others from across the country for this year’s National Farmer, Agriculturist and New Entrant to Commercial Agriculture of the Year awards. The national winners will be announced at a gala event on 15 November in Pretoria.
The nominees for the !Xhariep region are:
Farmer of the Year: Francis Visagie from Visagie Farming Enterprise in the district of Kenhardt Agriculturist of the Year: Willem van Aarde, chief agriculturist at the Karsten Farming Enterprise .New entrant to Commercial Agriculture: Dirk Louw from Silver Moon Investments in the district of Groblershoop Eastern Cape Farmer of the Year: Mark Harris from Langholm Farms in the district of Bathurst
Agriculturist of the Year: Buks Nel, new variety specialist at Tru-Cape
New entrant to Commercial Agriculture: Andries van der Poll from the farm Klipdrift in the district of Gouda
It was in PJ (Buks) Nel’s seventh decade that he was awarded Plant Breeder’s Rights for the improved apple cultivars Gala, Fuji, Bigbucks and Fuji Royal, but it has been a lifetime of dedication and of walking orchards that got him to that point.
An industry and globally recognised expert on integrated pest management, he went on to focus on new and improved cultivar development at Tru-Cape. After his retirement as technical manager at the Two-a-Day Group in 2002, he became the New Variety Specialist at Tru-Cape, where he has worked since its inception.
Buks grew up on the farm Weltevreden close to Ladismith in the Little Karoo. In 1961 he graduated from Stellenbosch University with the degree B.Sc. Entomology and Zoology. Sport was his passion at university, and he played rugby for Maties (U19A) and also excelled in athletics.
After university he joined an agricultural chemical company where his main job was to evaluate new crop protection products. This took him to work at the research station in Cambridge, where he spent a year evaluating new products. For the next ten years he worked in South Africa during the summer and in various countries in Europe in the Northern Hemisphere summer.
Buks came back to South Africa permanently in 1975, where he joined the now Two-a-Day Group for the next 27 years. During his tenure he was fortunate enough to be at the start of integrated pest management (IPM) and integrated fruit production (IFP) movement, where he tried to emulate the world leaders in radically reducing chemical usage on fruit farms.
The IPM group, which Buks led for 15 years, was a force to be reckoned with and changed the way South Africans produced fruit.
He was instrumental in developing the apple cultivars Royal Gala, Braeburn, Fuji, Cripps Pink (Pink Lady®), Cripps Red (Joya®) and Nicoter (Kanzi®). He started an evaluation orchard at Oak Valley in Elgin with about 350 apple varieties. For his work regarding the development of IPM and Royal Gala, he received the award from the Cape Pomological Association in 1991. In 2000 he was awarded the O.S.H. Reinecke medal for exemplary service to the fruit industry from the Cape Pomological Association.
Buks was instrumental in bringing the first apple variety that was recorded in South African history, back to the Cape and South Africa from Holland. The “Wijn apple” was planted in the Company’s Garden in April 2019 after a 10 year project to locate and bring the apple back.
When not focused on apples and pears, Buks tastes and recommends wines and tends to his vineyards of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes from which he makes his own bottle-fermented bubbly. In September this year he visited the birthplace of apples, Almaty, in Kazakhstan.
Farmer of the Year is sponsored by Nedbank, Old Mutual and Old Mutual Insure.