Gary Moulton, at Washington State University in Mount Vernon, is impressed with Taylor's Gold.
Gary Moulton, at Washington State University in Mount Vernon, is impressed with Taylor’s Gold.

While growers in the drier areas of Washington State have been struggling to grow the Taylor’s Gold pear to the point of giving up, producers in the wetter areas of the Pacific Northwest say they’re optimistic about the variety. In arid eastern Washington and in Medford, Oregon, growers report that the fruit has an unattractive blotchy russet, and is unlike the variety when it’s produced in New Zealand, where it originated as a sport of Comice. But in the coastal areas of the Pacific Northwest, growers are having more success.

Kevin Zielinski, at E.Z. Orchards near Salem, Oregon, which typically receives more than 40 inches of rain a year, said his fruit is comparable to the New Zealand –Taylor’s Gold that are imported into the United States in the off season. And, Gary Moulton, Extension fruit specialist at Washington State University’s Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center in Mount Vernon, where annual rainfall averages 32 inches a year, said his Taylor’s Gold trees are producing “gorgeous” fruit.

Nancy Fowler-Johnson, general manager of Fowler Nurseries in Newcastle, California, which sells Taylor’s Gold but made only about 3,500 trees this year, has concluded that it performs better in temperate climates, and will not do well in climates where it was difficult to russet the traditional Bosc. “If a grower had trouble getting complete russet on the old Bosc, you could definitely have trouble with Taylor’s Gold,” she said. “That’s why we never marketed it as a completely russeted pear. It’s not going to happen in most cases.”

Climate sensitive

Brandt’s Fruit Trees, Inc., in Yakima, Washington, also sells Taylor’s Gold, though president Lynnell Brandt said interest had fallen off. The variety appears to be very climate sensitive, and fruit produced in humid climates has been much different from the fruit from drier climates.

Nelson, New Zealand, where the sport was discovered, has annual rainfall of 40 inches, compared with eastern Washington’s eight to ten inches of precipitation, most of which falls in winter.

Ken Adams, president of Willow Drive Nursery in Ephrata, Washington, said his nursery hasn’t grown any Taylor’s Gold trees in several years, although it could if anyone wanted some.

“We’ve put it out in enough places to trial it, and I think on the dry side of the state it’s going to be difficult,” he said. “It’s the reason we grow Goldens so nice here.

“I suspect it’s an absolutely wonderful piece of fruit if we can grow it, but we can’t grow it. Even New Zealand struggles with it a little.”

Since Taylor’s Gold appears to grow well in western Washington, he suggested to some producers who were interested in the variety that they might think about growing it in western Washington and bringing it to the main apple-producing region in central Washington to pack.

Fully russeted

Zielinski, in Salem, Oregon, ships some of his Taylor’s Gold to Washington to be packed and marketed, and has been encouraged by the response from the market, though it’s based on a small volume so far. Consumers are familiar with the variety because of the New Zealand fruit being marketed in the opposite season.

Zielinski planted his first 1.5 acres of Taylor’s Gold on Provence quince rootstocks in 2000, and harvested a few pears in the fourth leaf. The fruit has been fully russeted and has a thin skin. The public’s perception of the variety is based on the fruit they have seen from the Southern Hemisphere, he noted, and he was satisfied that he could match that. In fact, he was so encouraged that he planted more, and now has 14 acres.

But he’s stopped planting for the time being because of the variety’s erratic cropping. Lack of fruit set has been a problem, particularly this year.

“Regardless of the value of the fruit or the quality of the fruit, if we don’t have enough production per acre, it won’t be profitable,” he said. “I think it’s a more sensitive variety to pollination, or it may be a profuse bloomer that doesn’t have the correct balance of nutrients or some other anomaly. We don’t know what the problem is. We don’t have any research on Taylor’s Gold, so we’re kind of learning as we go with it.”

Zielinski is optimistic that he can achieve yields of 20 to 22 bins per acre, which would be profitable at the current market value. It’s a gourmet variety that sells at a premium.

Moulton, at WSU in Mount Vernon, has been impressed with the quality of the pears from his 200 trees. “They’re gorgeous,” he said. “We get 100 percent russet here.”

He applies no treatments to enhance the russet but said even the standard Bosc russets well in that location.

However, productivity can be low, even on the quince rootstock. Taylor’s Gold is even less productive on Old Home by Farmingdale 87 or 97, and Moulton thinks it might be less productive than the –regular Comice.

Not excited

Steve Castagnoli, Oregon State University Extension educator in Hood River, said growers there do not use quince rootstocks because of their lack of hardiness and have had similar experiences to growers in Washington. However, they have a long history of producing Comice and are used to waiting for trees to come into production. Taylor’s Gold appears to be similar to Comice in terms of productivity.

Initially, growers with sites where fruit tended to russet naturally thought Taylor’s Gold would be a good fit, he said.

“In 2005, we had a very wet spring, and we had great russet development on Taylor’s Gold,” he said. “But in a more normal or moderate spring, we get partial russet. That doesn’t really make a very attractive pear.”

Most of the blocks in the Hood River area are small, and Castagnoli said he thinks growers are still thinking they might be able to find a home for their limited production.

“My impression is nobody’s really excited about it,” he said.