This spring, Scott Smith of Tonasket, Washington, was optimistic that his sixth-leaf Taylor’s Gold pear trees would finally produce a crop, but in May the fruit dropped.
"We had a good bloom and we had fruit on the trees, but they just haven’t stuck," he said. "They fall off. We would have expected fruit on those trees, but so far we have not had what we would call a crop yet."
Last year, all he harvested were a few half bins, said Smith. "We’re actually very frustrated with it."
When he visited New Zealand, growers warned him that the variety was not easy to grow, but he was not prepared for the crop to drop. He was also disappointed that the small amount of fruit the trees have produced does not look like the Taylor’s Gold he saw in New Zealand. There, it had a light, attractive russet covering the entire fruit. In –Tonasket, the russet is heavier and only covers part of the fruit.
"I think we’re very close to grafting over," he said. However, he planted the Taylor’s Gold trees fairly close together, anticipating that when the trees started to bear they would stop growing. The trees are 8 or 9 feet apart in the rows, with 14 feet between rows.
Smith said it’s an intermediate spacing—not close enough for inter-tree competition to cause a dwarfing effect, but too wide for standard pears, like d’Anjou. Bartlett might work, but Smith, who operates the Smith & Nelson packing house in Tonasket as well as orchards, said he’s got plenty of Bartletts already.
"We could manage them in that space, but I don’t know that we want that many more Bartletts," he said.
He’s apprehensive about Concorde because he hasn’t seen great marketing success, and the variety is susceptible to fireblight.
Smith has 13 acres of Taylor’s Gold, and another grower he packs for, Blair Losvar, has about five.
To a large packer that might not sound like a large acreage, he said. "But to us, that’s a lot of pears that aren’t doing –anything."