Home' The Murray Pioneer : May 23rd 2017 Contents 12 - “RIVERLAND & MALLEE FARMER”
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More Than 90 Years Young
Jujubes the new Riverland ‘it’ fruit?
A LOCAL grower has found his niche
growing an almost unheard of stone fruit
after spending many years of trial and error
producing it in Sunlands.
Ben Waddelow’s Sunlands property
is like walking through a fruit salad as
he experiments with growing unusual,
In addition to growing fresh fruit, he sells
grafted trees, dried fruit products, honey,
offers budwood and grafting services, and
also grows unusual, exotic nursery plants.
In the sandy Sunlands soil he success-
fully grows bananas, mangoes, sweet white
sapotes, seedless pomegranates, figs,
apples, guava, amla (Indian medicine tree),
dragon fruit, waxjambu and mulberries,
and is trialling a cactus fruit program. He
has bees, and more, but his pet project is
finally coming to fruition.
Jujubes (Chinese red dates, with the sci-
entific name of ‘ziziphus’) are now taking
off. Mr Waddelow said they are “hugely
popular” overseas and are gaining popu-
larity among Australia consumers, with his
market agents unable to get their hands on
enough of them.
Forty species are available and he has
trialled many varieties. After spending time
in China, California, and India researching,
and then trialling them on his Sunlands
property, he has narrowed down the best
jujube varieties to suit local conditions.
“Our Riverland climate has ideal growing
conditions for jujubes,” he said.
“Some jujube varieties I trialled have
never been propagated here before, and
I have discovered the only disease the
jujubes are susceptible to locally is a citrus
scale which occurs on orange trees.”
He did import the jujube rootstock
through quarantine – an expensive,
time-consuming exercise – and has
brought six types of rootstock and selected
cultivars into the country. These stay in
quarantine for six months.
“I have hundreds of plants here that
already have buyers and I can’t keep up
the demand for these stocks,” he said.
“Locally, Adelaide Central Market this
season had jujube prices from around $28
to $35 per kilogram.
“India, Taiwan and China are big users
of the product and although they grow
thousands of acres of their own, these
countries still want Australian-grown
jujubes due to the quality and cleanness of
“If you open a bag of imported jujubes
from those countries they have a smoke
smell, like smog, as they are tainted due to
“If you open a bag of Australian jujubes
and smell them, they are fresh. That’s why
these countries want to buy Australian.
“I discovered the Indian government is
funding research centres calling agricultur-
al to boost the country’s agriculture by 15
per cent to cater for the demand – some-
thing Australia also needs more funding in.
“I strongly believe the opportunity is
there for more growers in the Riverland to
plant jujubes to assist in catering for the
demand, and possible off-season export
Mr Waddelow believes growing jujubes
in the Riverland has plenty of advantages.
“The amount of sunlight and our water
are the key, and we grow them in the other
countries’ off-season,” he said.
“Our climate is perfect – when the
Riverland West had a 50C day of heat ear-
lier this year it didn’t affect the trees.
“The trees are drought-resistant, are
deep-rooted down two to three metres, and
can survive from anywhere between 55C to
Mr Waddelow said the jujube trees are
hardy and require minimal watering, unlike
“I water my trees for three hours twice
per week, sometimes less, and they use
less water per acre than citrus trees,” he
Mr Waddelow planted his trees three
metres apart, a bit like apple trees, and at
the moment he picks from late February
until May, depending on the weather, with
about 100kg plus per week picked this
season for six to eight weeks.
He said immature jujubes fruit is
smooth-green, about the size of a 50 cent
piece to a small apple, and the consistency
and taste of an apple or a plum.
They mature into a brown colour, then
eventually become wrinkled, looking like a
small date, with a small seed, similar to an
olive pit, inside.
“The trees are small and deciduous, and
can grow to a height of five to 12 metres
with some thorns on the branches,
although we are trying to breed them with-
out the thorns,” he said.
“The trees fruit well, with high volumes
at five to six years of age, and when they
are 10 to 12 years old they are in full fruit
production, and can live for up to 50 years
Mr Waddelow said jujubes originate from
Israel, Egypt and Iraq and the fruit is eaten
after a meal to settle the stomach. Chinese
people used it in dried form as medicine
within green tea with ginger, but it has
many uses and health benefits.
For more information about jujubes con-
tact Ben Waddelow 0418 817 719 or visit
Sunlands Jujubes Facebook page.
Ben Waddelow and his dog Bouncer near a jujube tree in his Sunlands property. Ben believes
the Riverland is ready for a new type of crop. Jujubes (Chinese red dates, with the scientific
name of ziziphus) are in huge demand domestically and overseas. PHOTOS: Sonia Fowler
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