Soon after arriving at WSU in 2006, I embarked on a journey with a passionate set of individuals to revive an industry that has remained in suspended animation since the early 1900s. An email from a pear farmer in Yakima urged me to apply for funding to do pear research. That was my first introduction to a segment of the Pacific Northwest fruit industry that, while long an underdog relative to apples, has long sought to reinvent itself for the 21st century marketplace. » More …
Today we continued our tour of intensive pear production regions in the Pacific Northwest. We visited three growers who tackle the problem of controlling pear vigor in their own ways. While some growers were hesitant to employ cost and labor-intensive trellis systems to control vegetative growth, others such as Chuck Peters have undertaken significant steps to test some of the vertical and V-trellis systems in high-density plantings such as those seen in Europe. These systems represent the pear industry’s goal to reduce concerns with more traditional production architectures, such as labor safety, lack of mechanization, and control of tree vigor. To that end, the primary concern for growers today revolves around the need for new and improved genetics in today’s pear production industry. While many growers have reiterated the numerous benefits of vigor control from a dwarfing rootstock, many growers expressed their reluctance to plant new pear acreage without a new variety that can be reliably grown, with far higher customer acceptance and demand. While the Yakima Valley region’s pear production industry has some unique needs, an emerging theme during the tour has been the severe need for new and improved pear genetics.
We were just introduced to Gorge Delights® JustFruit™ snack bars. Ken Goe, a pear grower in the Hood River Valley, set out to co-establish this company to help increase pear consumption. These fruit bars are available online and in many stores in the Pacific Northwest, check out where at http://www.gorgedelights.com/. The bars are made completely of natural fruit, with no added preservatives or sugars making an easy and healthy snack. Many flavors are available, but I recommend the original pear flavor!
Just came back from the Mt. Adams Orchards, in the southern foothills of beautiful Mt. Adams. Don Gibson, president of the Mt. Adams Orchard Corporation, oversees the growing, packing, and canning of pears from this and surrounding orchards. The orchard is experimenting with various rootstocks to control tree vigor. Quince, often used as a rootstock for vigor control in warmer climates, cannot withstand the cool winters of the Pacific Northwest. Todd Einhorn, a professor at Oregon State University, is currently assessing the cold tolerance of quince lines. It is time for researchers to help out the industry and develop a cold tolerant dwarfing rootstock for pears!
Today we discussed many topics in several orchards including older and newer blocks. The various production systems had unique advantages and drawbacks such as establishment costs and time to productivity. The major theme of the day was ‘How do you control vigor in pears?’. Approaches from tree cutting and root pruning were discussed with visiting scientists Stefano Musacchi, Enrique Sanchez, and Joan Bonany. This great first day of field tours was topped off with a brief roundtable discussion.