Good Fruit Grower

September 2012

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The Asian pear Hosui, from Japan in 1972, is sweet, crisp, juicy, and attractively russeted. Top inset is Summer Blood Birne, a red-flesh, or blood, pear, with a cinnamon flavor. Lower inset is Klemintinka, a small, crunchy, early (mid-July) pear that ripens on the tree. It hails from Bulgaria. At lower left is Ayers, small but beautiful, red blushed, early (mid-August) and juicy. Bred in Tennessee and introduced in 1954, it is resistant to fireblight. Web site, www.ars. The repository, as the name says, houses clonally propagated plants—and that includes blueberries, strawberries, brambles, hazelnuts, some minor fruits such as medlars and quince, as well as some nonfruit crops like hops and mint. While often thought of as a resource mostly for plant breeders, Postman noted that there are few U.S. pear breeding programs. "Richard Bell [the pear breeder at the USDA's Appalachian Research Center at Kearneysville, West Virginia] is my major stakeholder," he said. But nurseries look for new offerings. They search through the repository's catalogue, as do farm marketers looking for different varieties of pears that they can offer at their farms or at farmers' markets. Organic growers look for pears that are pest resistant. The repository can supply wood for grafting, but in limited quantities, and serves mostly as a resource of last resort. The system is meant to support research and educa- tion objectives, not home gardeners. If a tree is commercially available from a nursery, the Web site offers some help in finding it. "Over the years, Seckel pear has been the most requested scion wood from our pear collection," Postman said. The mission The repository has four distinct purposes—to collect, conserve, characterize, and distribute. As well as the orchard itself—collecting and conserving—the reposi- tory stores plant and seed information in a Resources Information Network. On the collecting side, Postman participates in expedi- tions to other countries to collect seed and plant samples from wherever pears originated or have been grown a long time. Pears are among the oldest cultivated fruits in the world. In the information retrieval system, pears are charac- "I'm a librarian in charge of a living plant collection." terized by fruit qualities like early or late ripening, large or small fruit, and flesh and skin color. Trees are characterized by compactness of habit, cold hardiness, chill requirements, and other qualities. Pears are also grouped by special uses—do they make good cider (perry), are they graft compatible with quince, do they have resistance to fireblight, mildew, leaf spot, psylla, or scab? The varieties are also described in sensory terms. Are they firm or soft, melting? Do they have stone cells, are they smooth or russeted? What's the flavor like? What's their shape? They are also grouped by country of origin. GOOD FRUIT GROWER SEPTEMBER 2012 19 —Joseph Postman Photos by JosePh Postman

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