2018-19 Fresh Pear Committee/Processed Pear Committee New and Continuing Research Funding (Source: Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission)

Earlier this summer, the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission provided in Good Fruit Grower an update on technology research projects planned for the year ahead.

Here is an update on research plans specific to the pear industry.

In May, at the Pear Bureau Northwest’s annual meeting, the pear industry voted to provide funding for 15 research projects.

These projects focus strongly on pear psylla management, fire blight control, management of postharvest decay and disorders and the potential for improved pear rootstocks — all high priorities for Northwest pear growers.

In late June, given the requirements of the federal marketing order, the budgets for the Fresh Pear Committee (FPC) and the Processed Pear Committee (PPC) were approved by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, and on July 1, almost $700,000 became available to address these critical issues.

A little history

Beginning in 2006, production and postharvest research on both fresh and processed pears has been funded by the Fresh Pear Committee and the Processed Pear Committee federal marketing orders. These organizations are the research funding successors to the Winter Pear Control Committee (WPCC) and the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission (WTFRC).

Prior to 2006, all Northwest winter pear growers paid assessments to the WPCC and a portion of that assessment went to research.

Additionally, pear growers in Washington paid assessments for research to the WTFRC on all pears grown in that state. Pear growers in the Mid-Columbia region also funded research through the Hood River Growers-Shippers. This arrangement resulted in uneven research assessment levels in Oregon and Washington.

With the formation of the PPC and FPC, pear growers across the Pacific Northwest began paying generally similar assessments for research, although growers in Oregon continue to partially support mission-oriented work at local research and extension facilities. As part of the research funding realignment, the WTFRC annually suspends its research assessment from Washington pear growers, deferring to funding from the FPC/PPC.

The process

Final pear research funding decisions are now made by the members of FPC and PPC based on input from the pear research subcommittee.

Led by Bob Gix of Blue Star Growers and assisted by 14 industry members, this committee reviews and ranks proposals to identify those that most effectively address the highest research priorities of the Pacific Northwest pear industry.

This process begins in November and concludes at the annual meetings of FPC/PPC, where proposed research expenditures are included in the overall budget approval process. Since this transition to funding from the FPC/PPC, the work of the pear research subcommittee has been managed under contract with the WTFRC.

The financial commitments made to specific projects are listed in the table below. When additional expenses are included, such as the pear portion of cross-commodity technology projects, research contingency set-asides and committee operational expenses, the cost of the pear research program has been about $900,000 annually.

With the decline in processed pear tonnage and the shorter winter pear crops over the past couple of years, pear research income has been about $700,000 over that same period.

To maintain a high quality, comprehensive pear research program with adequate reserves, over the past two seasons both the Fresh Pear Committee and the Processed Pear Committee voted to increase research assessments by $0.014 per carton (in 2018) and $0.15 per ton (beginning in 2017), for fresh and processed pears, respectively.

To ensure that grower assessments continue to be focused on funding high priority research, members of the subcommittee are developing a strategic planning document to communicate their understanding of research needs with growers, packers and the research community.

This plan will be available to pear industry members and the research community for review prior to the 2019-2020 research funding cycle.

—by Mike Willett and Bob Gix. Mike Willett is manager of the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission. Bob Gix, horticulturist for Blue Star Growers, is chair of the Fresh Pear Committee/Processed Pear Committee research subcommittee.

2018-2019 Pear Research Subcommittee Members

Bob Gix: Chair, Wenatchee
Sam Godwin: Co-chair, Wenatchee
Steve Hunt: Co-chair, Mid-Columbia
Alan Groff: Wenatchee
James Johnson: Wenatchee
Ray Schmitten: Wenatchee
Andrew Sundquist: Yakima
Don Gibson: Yakima
Phil Doornink: Yakima
Jason Matson: Yakima
Ed Ing: Mid-Columbia
Bruce Kiyokawa: Mid-Columbia
Craig Mallon: Mid-Columbia
Laura Naumes: Medford
Ron Meyer: Medford