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Orchardist Gorham Blaine developed his steep V system for pears.

Orchardist Gorham Blaine developed his steep V system for pears.

Pear grower Gorham Blaine has developed his own techniques for stimulating early production at his Dog River Ranch at Odell, Oregon.

With Bartlett, Bosc, and Comice, he plants the trees seven feet apart, and selects two shoots to train as leaders, using crossed bamboo poles and a three-wire trellis. The two leaders form a steep V system in the row, which will ultimately become a fruiting wall. The trees are on Old Home x Farmingdale 87 and OHxF.97 rootstocks. The d’Anjou trees are spaced nine feet apart because of their greater vigor.

He heads the trees at planting, but does very little pruning after the first year. Shoots are bent and tied to the trellis. He aims to have the trees reach the second wire in the first season and the top wire, at 9.5 feet, by the second leaf. He hopes for a full canopy by the third leaf, some fruit production in the fourth leaf, and a big crop in the fifth year. As the trees grow, he recycles the wood by pulling out the strongest limbs. Nothing is permanent except the V, he said.

Not wire friendly

Blaine said the system has worked well for Bartlett and Bosc, but not for d’Anjou, which is not as “wire friendly” and does not form fruit buds as readily as Bosc when the limbs are bent over. Suckering has been a problem with both Bartlett and d’Anjou but not Bosc.

Dr. Steve Castagnoli, Oregon State University Extension educator in Hood River, commented that with Bartlett, the challenge is getting the canopy established, but once it has produced a good crop, the tree comes into balance. D’Anjou, on the other hand is so vigorous that it is difficult to get it to set a crop and settle down even on an OHxF.87 rootstock.

Suckering

Blaine said he prefers his in-row V to a V-trellis system because a V-trellis generates a tremendous amount of suckering in the center of the V. “You’re fighting the center nonstop,” he said.

With the trees in a single plane, he feels he can control the vigor better and space the rows closer together. In his new blocks, the rows are 12 feet apart.

Blaine has an 18-year-old block of freestanding Bartlett and d’Anjou trees spaced 6 by 18 feet apart, which has been extremely productive. The Bartletts produce 55 bins per acre of large-size pears every year.

“It’s what I would call the ideal block—if you already had it,” he said. “But the problem is I don’t want to wait for an extra three to four years to get there. I want to move faster,” he said, indicating his steep V blocks. “And this is the way to get there.”