Garry Langford says testers will be licensed to grow trees for five years to produce enough pears for sampling.
Two new pear varieties from Australia are being propagated for testing in the United States.
One is an early-season blushed yellow pear that is ready to eat off the tree; the other is a classic green winter pear that requires a couple of months of cold storage before being shipped to market.
The two pears are the first to be released from the Australian National Pear Breeding Program at Tatura, Victoria, and are already being tested in commercial orchards in Australia. Coregeo, a division of Apple and Pear Australia Limited, gained the commercialization rights for the new varieties and is looking to license them to the supply chain.
Garry Langford, manager of major projects for Coregeo, said discussions are under way with potential testers in the Pacific Northwest, and it is anticipated that the first trees will be planted in 2012.
Both pears have exceptional flavor and texture, he said. The yellow pear is different from those currently available because it’s ready to eat without conditioning, and it matures earlier than other pear varieties—about two to three weeks before Bartlett. It is somewhat small, but size probably could be improved with good management practices, he believes. It’s a variety that would be shipped quickly to market. It can be stored in regular-atmosphere storage for up to three months, but the flavor deteriorates in storage. Langford could not name the varieties because of patent issues.
Commercialization is a two-stage process, he explained. Although the company sees commercial attributes in the new varieties, they need to be tested in orchards in a range of locations and conditions. The Australian Pome Fruit Improvement Program has had them in test plots for five years. Last August, they were planted in commercial orchards in seven locations in Australia’s major pear-growing regions.
During a visit to the United States in February, Langford told the Good Fruit Grower that his company is looking for producers to test the variety in the Northern Hemisphere—specifically, North America (Washington, Oregon, and possibly California), the Netherlands, and perhaps Italy. It’s felt that production in the Northern Hemisphere would be complementary to that of Australia because of the opposite seasons. Australia produces 130,000 tons of pears annually, of which about 35,000 to 40,000 tons are processed.
Langford said there’s always the view that since Australian growers supported the development of the varieties, they should benefit from them first, but in reality other people need to be involved to create the interest and critical mass to make it work.
He would like the tests in the Northern Hemisphere to take place simultaneously with the testing in Australia so that Coregeo can understand the true potential of the varieties. Testers (probably grower-packers, since they have the ability to get the fruit to market) will be licensed to grow trees for five years and produce enough pears for sampling.
Langford said it might be possible to have a group of entities test the variety in a number of sites in the Pacific Northwest and pool the results. Testers will be expected to provide feedback to Coregeo about the pears’ potential. If tests confirm commercial potential, those who tested them will have an opportunity to grow them commercially.
“If it doesn’t fly, it doesn’t fly,” Langford said, “But if it works, we talk about what the commercial arrangements might look like.”
Although APAL is a grower organization, it recognizes that growers don’t have the wherewithal to commercialize varieties themselves, and the involvement of other parts of the supply chain will be key, he said.
APAL represents the Australian pome fruit industry on issues such as regulation, legislation, marketing, and research and development. In the mid-1990s, it acquired the trademarks of Pink Lady and Sundowner apples from the State of Western Australia, which developed the varieties. In 2008, it formed Coregeo to handle that growing aspect of its business and acquire other intellectual property. The company successfully bid for the commercialization rights to the new pear varieties and might acquire others, Langford said. It also offers consultancy services to help horticultural entities commercialize new varieties.
Australia has just two active breeding programs: the apple breeding program in Western Australia and the pear breeding program at Tatura. An apple breeding program at Stanthorpe in Queensland is no longer developing new varieties but is releasing existing material. A scab-resistant apple variety was recently put out for bid.