Canada releases a pear for the future
Harovin Sundown may be an alternative for Bartlett growers who have lost their processed pear market.
Harovin Sundown Photo courtesy of agriculture and agrifood canada
|The closure of the sole processing plant for pears in Ontario, Canada, promises to boost interest in new pear varieties such as Harovin Sundown, the latest selection from Canada's pear-breeding program. |
In Ontario, which claims about 70 percent of Canada's commercial pear orchards, Bartlett has long been the mainstay of both the fresh and the processing market. It represents about 60 percent of the acreage, followed by Bosc at about 25 percent.
But the closure of the CanGro Foods, Inc., processing plant in St. Davids, Ontario, at the end of June, eliminated a major market for growers.
"With the processing market, the growers could sell smaller fruitsfruits which were just a little too small for the fresh market but were still adequate for the processing marketand the fruit finish did not have to be perfect," said Dr. David Hunter, scientist at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's research station in Vineland, Ontario. "Now, because the processing market looks as though it may disappear, growers are faced with the difficult choice of what to do with Bartletts that have typically gone for processing."
Many existing pear plantings are older, less-productive blocks, Hunter said, meaning that some growers will face significant challenges in producing fruit for the fresh market rather than processing. In addition, the dominant position of Bartlett in local markets means any increase in supply will increase competition to sell the variety.
Some growers have already acted, pulling out upwards of 600 acres of trees (nearly a third of the province's 1,925 acres of pear orchard), but Hunter believes Harovin Sundown and other new varieties give growers an alternative, not only to Bartlett and Bosc, but also to the traditional marketing window for local pears.
"What can we do in terms of a fresh-market pear that's going to spread our season out, that's going to be different?" Hunter asked, highlighting the role new varieties can play in helping growers adapt.
Harovin Sundown ripens in mid-September in Ontario, about three weeks after Bartlett and at about the same time as Bosc. A good keeper, it promises to extend the season for local pears by about 12 weeksalmost to the end of December.
"It will keep well," Hunter said. "It's totally different from Bosc, and I think that it will give growers an opportunity to have another product on the market."
Harovin Sundown was the result of a 1972 cross of Bartlett and the numbered U.S. variety US56112-146 made by Dr. Harvey Quamme, pear breeder at the Harrow research station, where the breeding program was located before being moved to Vineland. Bred for resistance to fireblight, the variety is far less susceptible to the disease than Bartlett.
Harovin Sundown is an attractive variety with yellow-green skin and a tendency to blush. The fruit has firm, cream-white flesh, with the flavor drawing good responses at public tastings.
Hunter believes growers will have to do some degree of thinning to reduce abrasions even through the variety tends to larger fruit. Trees that weren't thinned rarely yielded fruit smaller than 2.5 inches in diameter, while heavily thinned trees could produce fruit up to four inches.
One distributor Hunter has been in touch with is able to sell all the fruit that two of the growers who have had the pear on a trial basis have been able to provide, but it could be a decade before the fruit is widely available in stores.
Arrangements for the propagation and production of the variety were not in place when Harovin Sundown was named earlier this year. Ongoing discussions aim to allow some nurseries to propagate the variety this summer, but just four acres are currently in the ground. In addition, the federal research station in Kentville, Nova Scotia, has a few trees, and two immature trees are growing at the station in Summerland, British Columbia.
"It's going to take a longer time to build up rather than shorter. It's not going to be an instant [release]," Hunter said. "But that's the nature of the tree fruit business, and the pear business."
Three other pears pending
Harovin Sundown may be Canada's newest named pear variety, but Dr. David Hunter is also gathering information on three other selections that could be named and introduced to the market within the next five years.
Two of the varieties are late-season pears, including one reminiscent of a Forelle, and another with a Bartlett-type shape that is larger, longer, and suited for the fresh market.
A third selection is a mid- to late-season pear resulting from a cross of parents resistant to fireblight and pear psylla. Maturing a week later than Bartlett, this variety has a yellow skin and red blush. Its flavor is intense, however, and Hunter believes it may be a selection whose success the market will have to determine. --P. Mitham