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What a Gem!

Gem is a new fireblight resistant pear tends not to russet.

Gem, a new fire blight-­resistant pear variety from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s breeding program, was officially released this spring.

The pear is medium sized with light green skin that turns to yellow when ripe. The skin can have up to 35 percent red blush. It does not russet under dry growing conditions, and only occasionally in humid ­conditions.

Gem originated from a cross of Sheldon and US62563-004 made in 1970. It was selected in 1981 from the USDA’s seedling orchard at Beltsville, Maryland, by Dr. Richard Bell. He tested it extensively at the Appalachian Fruit Research Station in West ­Virginia, where he is pear breeder. In West Virginia, Gem blooms about a day before Bartlett and harvest begins about a week after Bartlett. It can be harvested over an extended period. The flavor is sweet to subacid and mildly aromatic.

The variety is precocious, bearing fruit three years after planting, and produces high yields, according to the USDA. It has been tested at Oregon State University, Washington State University, Clemson University, and Michigan State University.

Trees of Gem are not available yet, and budwood is limited. For more information, contact Bell at richard.bell@ars.usda.gov.

Budwood with virus-free and phytoplasm-free certification will be available from the Clean Plant Center of the Northwest at Washington State University, Prosser.

Genetic material of Gem will be deposited in the National Plant Germplasm System, where it will be available for research purposes, including development of new cultivars.