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Pear owner is looking for partners in western Canada and the United States.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency compared Harovin Sundown to other pear varieties and took these photographs. Note the large size, the blockiness and fullness at the neck, and the smooth finish of the Harovin Sundown.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency compared Harovin Sundown to other pear varieties and took these photographs. Note the large size, the blockiness and fullness at the neck, and the smooth finish of the Harovin Sundown.

The long-awaited Harovin Sundown pear has taken another step toward the commercial market. On May 25, an agreement was signed between the Vineland Research and Innovation ­Centre, which now owns rights to the pear, and the Vineland Growers Cooperative, which will produce and market the pear in eastern Canada.

The Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, which also debuted in a new role tin this venture, is seeking similar partners in western Canada and, especially, in the United States. Sundown Pear is being tested in British Columbia, New York State, France, New Zealand, and the Netherlands, and Vineland is pursuing marketing licenses in those additional countries.

Michael Ecker, president of the 300-member Vineland Growers Cooperative that markets peaches, nectarines, pears, sweet cherries, apricots, plums, and fresh grapes, bought exclusive rights to grow and market the pear from Ontario east across Quebec and the Maritime Provinces.

Nurseries have been licensed to produce the trees, and growers planted everything available, about 20 acres worth, this spring. Trees were planted three feet apart in high-density plantings, Ecker said. Pears will come to market in three or four years, but some Sundown pears from early test plantings are already available.

The pears are being propagated on Old Home X Farmingdale 97 rootstock, which is vigorous and standard size but more productive and precocious than standard rootstocks and is also resistant to fireblight, as is the Harovin Sundown cultivar.

Under the agreement, a minimum of 33,000 trees will be brought into fruit ­production.

About 20 co-op members grow pears, Ecker said, but anyone can plant Harovin Sundown, and Vineland will market them. “They don’t even have to join the co-op. Or if they want to sell the pear in roadside markets, just let us know, and we’ll say yes. We really want to get this pear to ­consumers in Canada.”

Growers pay a royalty of $1.50 a tree. Vineland Growers Cooperative then will pay a fee of $225 an acre each year for ten years on trees aged 5 to 15, after which there are no more fees.

Growers will pack the pears in their own facilities, and the Vineland co-op will sell them.

“All the retailers are excited about this new pear,” Ecker said. “First of all, it’s Canadian, and that’s a selling point. Secondly, it’s available in winter. It harvests late, stores really well, and it eats well. It’s a good pear.

“Growers will like it because it’s fireblight resistant and it crops well. It stores really well, much better than Bartlett, which is three weeks earlier. We’re excited about it.”

Harovin Sundown is larger than Bartlett, something growers also need. They lost their only processors and the canning pear market that had absorbed the smaller Bartletts, so they want a pear of Bartlett quality but larger.

The real test, Ecker said, will be in the supermarkets. In consumer panel tests, Harovin Sundown scored very well. “But the real test is when they buy it. Will they like it and come back and buy it again?”

Sundown pear trees are described by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency as medium-sized with semi-upright growth habit and winter hardy with good crop production after winter temperatures as low as -17˚F. Grafted onto certain OHxF rootstocks, Sundown pear will produce marketable crops earlier and produce higher yields than standard Bartlett trees and over a longer term. The trees bloom late.

The pears are described as very fine texture, medium to firm, juicy, and with a light red overcolor compared to Bartlett’s pink red.

The Sundown pear has high tolerance to fireblight with a rating of 9.5 out of 10, compared to Bartlett at 3 to 4. Yields of Sundown pear were 14 percent higher than Bartlett in field tests, and postharvest storage life exceeds three months. Ecker said the co-op plans to sell them from December through February.
Harovin Sundown is a selection that was made in 1972 from a controlled cross between Bartlett and a numbered U.S. selection. But it was not named until 2008, when it was released by David Hunter, the pear breeder for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Vineland, Ontario, research station, where the pear was developed.

The new pear made slow progress, despite growers’ desire for a Bartlett-like, fireblight-resistant cultivar. It was selected and propagated in 1982, and test trees were put into regional trials in 1988. Things began to speed up when Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada—the USDA of Canada—helped to create the quasi-independent nonprofit organization called the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre in 2007. Its mission is to bring to market new horticultural varieties—and the Sundown pear is its first.

Darlene Homonko, in the centre’s business development office, said the idea was to create a “transitional body” between the plant breeders in the public sector and the commercial interests—growers and marketers—in the private sector. Royalty money and marketing fees from Sundown pear—and other new varieties as they come—will be funneled back to support further research.

Until now, all new varieties developed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada breeders have been open release. “This is the first agreement of its kind in Canada,” Homonko said.