Good Fruit Grower

September 2011

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Pears Rootstocks HEAVEN P Quince rootstocks enable European growers to harvest in the second leaf. by Geraldine Warner lovely." The Nicholson family farm, Red Jacket Orchards, produces primarily apples, along with a few Ya Li and other varieties of Asian pears. He'd like to have more pears to sell at farmers' markets during the winter, along with his apples and juices. However, there's less incentive to plant pears in the United States, because American consumers do not prize pears as much as Europeans do. "You have to be a brave soul to do the pear thing, just because it's a secondary piece of fruit in the supermarket," he said. But he thinks that new varieties of pears with a different appearance could help create a renaissance. Having seen the success of pear pro- ducers in Europe, Nicholson feels brave enough to make an investment in plant- ing more pears—perhaps Conference or Forelle, or some of the new varieties ema- nating from breeding programs in North America. Dwarfing rootstock However, the first thing that's needed is a hardy dwarfing rootstock, Nicholson observed. European growers use quince rootstocks—typically the dwarfing Quince C—which is not considered hardy enough for the fruit-growing regions of the United States. "That's going to kill you if you make a planting and it doesn't survive," Nichol- son said. "First, we need a quince root- stock with winter hardiness, and then we have to put on promising varieties, and then put it in a system that will give us early production. If you could put them on a quince rootstock for precociousness, you all of a sudden have another ball game." 10 SEPTEMBER 2011 GOOD FRUIT GROWER Jan van Dijk uses "run through" nursery trees, which are taller, calmer, and have more feathers than the traditional knip trees. He removes any strong upright shoots and laterals that don't have fruit buds at the tips, and keeps only short feathers that will become fruiting spurs. Joe Nicholson of New York described the orchard as "pear heaven." Pear oor returns for apples in recent years have prompted Dutch fruit growers to pull out their apple orchards and replace them with pears. Twenty years ago, the Netherlands had 38,000 acres of apples and only 15,000 acres of pears. Now, it has more pears than apples. But growers are not content to plant pears and wait several years to get back into production. They're using the same techniques as in high-density apple production to create fruiting walls that crop the second year after planting and expect yields of 60 bins per acre when the trees mature. "I was just blown away with the pear culture here," commented Joe Nicholson of Geneva, New York, who joined the International Fruit Tree Association's recent tour to England, the Netherlands, and Belgium. He was particularly impressed by a visit to Jacko Van Kessel's orchard at Oud- Vossemeer, in the Netherlands, where farm manager Jan van Dijk was producing 30 bins per acre on second-leaf plantings and 80 bins per acre on mature blocks. "That is pear heaven," Nicholson commented. "And the fruit was

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