Good Fruit Grower

January 2015

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 10 of 39 GOOD FRUIT GROWER JANUARY 1, 2015 11 Fortunately, so are our crop insurance agents. Like everyone else at Northwest Farm Credit Services, our crop insurance agents live and breathe agriculture. They're immersed in it every day. That's a tremendous advantage when you consider the nature of complex, ever-changing insurance programs. Fact is, risks abound – from adverse weather to a drop in market prices – and you need an insurance partner with expertise, knowledge and commitment, every step of the way. Give us a call today. Your only risk is waiting. nor | 800.743.2125 THE ARE GREAT PERILS Thomas Cobb Insurance Agent This institution is an equal opportunity provider and employer. of the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission for five years, has been on the board of the Pear Bureau Northwest for almost 10 years, and has served on the Fresh Pear Committee for 21 years. Kevin Moffitt, president of the Pear Bureau, said Schmitten is fair and grounded in his opinions and leads with vision. "Ray has a true passion for pears and contin- ues to be an asset to the entire pear industry." Schmitten has been on the research subcommittee for 19 years, and has chaired the committee since 2005. He is now co-chair with Bob Gix. "I do think that you really need to pay back to the industry for what you've gained," he said. "And there are rewards to that. Being involved, you gain information and make acquaintances and friendships that you oth- erwise would not." Gix, horticulturist with Blue Star Growers in C a s h m e r e , h a s known Schmitten e v e r s i n c e h e started doing field work 30 years ago. He said Schmitten is a phenomenally easy person to work with. He can quickly grasp the situation and identify what the challenges will be and who will be the best person to tackle the research. He has a good understanding of both research and industry priorities and needs. "He's a great individual to work with," he added. Schmitten said he personally thinks finding a dwarfing pear rootstock is the top research priority. The Malling 9 rootstock has enabled apple growers to plant trees more densely and improve efficiency, but there is still no dwarfing rootstock for pears. Pear growers need to be able to modernize their orchards and grow smaller trees so pickers can use shorter ladders. There's a limited labor force that will harvest pears from 10- to 12-foot ladders because it requires some athleticism, he said. Schmitten has a four-year-old experimental block with d'Anjou and Bartlett trees spaced two feet apart with ten feet between rows. The trees are on Old Home by Farmingdale 87 rootstocks. Although early production has been high, shading soon leads to blind wood and low spur density. He's concluded that with OHF 87, a 6- by-12 foot spacing is as tight as he wants to go. He feels confident that as rootstock breeders gain a better understanding of the genetics that control dwarf- ing, they'll be able to develop genetic markers to speed up the process of developing fully dwarfing pear rootstocks. "Until then, I think we have to use horticulture to keep the trees small," he said. Change Economically, pear growers in the Wenatchee River Valley don't have a great incentive to change their orchards. Many still have blocks with trees spaced 20 feet apart that are still very profitable. "It's real hard for me to convince the bank that I need to start cutting this out and replanting new pear orchards Ray Schmitten's great-grandfather, Fred, built a saw mill near Cashmere in 1902 and founded the Schmitten Lumber Company. He had a factory that supplied wooden boxes to the tree fruit industry until the switch to cartons in the 1950s and 1960s. This lumber truck was used on the orchard up through the '60s. "I do think that you really need to pay back to the industry for what you've gained." —Ray Schmitten

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Good Fruit Grower - January 2015