PEAR: FRUIT FOR GARDEN
The Pear has long been associated with man as a cultivated fruit. The European Pear, Pyrus communis, originated in southeastern Europe and the Caucasian region, from whence it spread westward through Europe. The earliest settlers brought it to America.
Pears are grown throughout the Temperate Zone where winter temperatures are not too severe and soil and moisture supply are favorable. The commercial industry is located in California, Oregon, and Washington, and in the fruit regions near the Great Lakes. New York near Lake Ontario, and the Hudson Valley, western Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Ontario in Canada are eastern Pear-producing areas.
Pears are less hardy than Apples but hardier than Peaches. Temperatures lower than —20 to —25 degrees F. are likely to injure fully dormant Pear trees. The moderating effect of large bodies of water and a uniform moisture supply are important factors in determining the location of the commercial Pear industry. The high temperatures and high humidity of the southern states favor the rapid development of Pear blight and limit Pear culture in these states to the low-quality, blight-resistant Sand Pear hybrids, Kieffer, Le Conte, Pineapple and others.
Site and Soil. Good air circulation is essential, as Pears bloom earlier than Apples, and the flowers may be frosted on low land surrounded by higher ground from which the cold air drains on still, cool nights. A sloping site is preferable except where a nearby large body of water affords protection from frost.
Pears are considered to prefer the heavier soil types. Clay loams with porous subsoils which permit the deep root penetration required by the Pear tree are best. Medium loams and sandy loams are satisfactory if they are in good physical condition and well drained. Pear trees do not thrive on soils that are waterlogged during the growing season.
Soil Preparation and Planting. The soil is prepared for planting the same as for Apple, and the planting operation is the same as for Apple.
The trees may be set in the spring or, in mild climates, in the fall. Standard trees are set about 20 ft. apart each way, but the more vigorous varieties, such as Kieffer, Beurr£ dAnjou and Flemish Beauty, may need 25 ft. Trees on Quince roots are planted 12-15 ft. apart, and care should be taken that the point of union of the scion and stock is a few inches above the ground level, or the scion may soon develop its own roots and become a full-sized tree.
Care and Fertilizing. The soil may be managed as for the Apple except that, because vigorous or overvigorous growth may be very susceptible to fire blight, great care must be taken not to stimulate it. The injury to the trees from fire blight may cause far greater loss to the grower than the crop reduction which may occur from trees that are kept somewhat below average in vigor.
The object in managing the soil should be to stimulate only as much growth as the trees can make without becoming too susceptible to blight and yet be sufficiently vigorous to set enough fruit buds for profitable crops. One should err, if necessary, on the side of too little growth.
In humid. regions, as in the East, or in the West where ample irrigation water is available, the orchard may be maintained in a permanent sod. Enough nitrogen is used to promote moderately vigorous growth. A heavy sod may need discouraging in the spring by partial cultivation and then be allowed to re-establish in late summer. If clean cultivation is practiced, a cover crop should be sown in midsummer to occupy the ground until the following spring.
Phosphorus and potassium are not likely to be needed on most soils, except possibly for the sod or cover crop.
Pruning. Pear trees are pruned much like Apple trees, except that overpruning and the resulting vigorous growth may result in succulent tissues which are very susceptible to blight injury, as already mentioned. Pruning, therefore, should be as light as is consistent with developing a structurally sound tree and maintaining the fruiting wood in good vigor.
The modified leader type of tree is preferred for the Pear. A one-year tree is headed (cut back) at 3 1/2-4 ft. at planting time. At the end of the first season’s growth, 4 to 6 scaffold or framework branches are selected. These are spaced about 6 in. apart and are selected to point in different directions. The other branches are removed. If insufficient growth is made the first year, additional scaffold (main framework) branches may be selected for retention a year later.
For the next few years, until the tree is in bearing, pruning should be light and corrective in nature to produce a well-shaped tree that can support heavy crops without breakage. Bad crotches (those likely to break apart because of their weight as the trees become older) should be prevented from developing by cutting back one member of the pair of young branches that diverge to form the crotch. Light thinning of the shoots to prevent crowding may be needed, but moderation should be the rule to reduce the possibility of injury from blight.
The shoots of bearing trees should be thinned out lightly and regularly. Heavy pruning should never be practiced with blight-susceptible Pears. Frequently, the removal of blight-infected twigs will be all the pruning that is necessary. The tree, however, should be kept from getting too dense, and some weak (thin) branches should be pruned out from the centers of the trees. Water sprouts (long, erect-growing shoots that spring from old branches) should be removed, as their succulent growth invites infection by the fire blight organism, and the disease, by moving rapidly downward, may invade a large limb, thus making necessary a heavy cut to remove the infected wood.
Harvesting. Pears must be harvested greener than the other fruits, as they ripen better off than on the tree. Fruits ripened on the tree turn brown at the core. The Bartlett Pear is ready when the green color between the lenticels, or dots, becomes paler than the lenticels, giving the fruit a speckled appearance.
Pears mostly have more tender skins than Apples, and more careful handling is necessary.
Pears do not keep well at room temperatures and have a much shorter life in cold storage than Apples.
Varieties. The Pear varieties of the world are very numerous and have mostly originated as the result of definite attempts to improve them through breeding.
During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries a great interest in Pears stimulated the raising of thousands of seedlings in Belgium and France. Van Mons, a Belgian, at one time had 80,000 Pear seedlings in his plantings. From this work many of our best Pear varieties came. Now the Agricultural Experiment Stations in the United States are producing new Pear varieties for American conditions, but the European varieties are still the basis of the commercial Pear industry and are likely to remain so for many years.
Bartlett (William’s Bon Chretien of Europe): This is the leading Pear variety of the world and first choice for commercial as well as home-garden planting. Tree bears early and regularly. Fruit yellow, large, excellent for dessert and canning; midseason.
Beurre Bose: Large, attractive, excellent quality, late. Tree productive and slow in coming into bearing. A good variety for market and home use.
Beurre d’Anjou: The standard winter Pear— large, good, late, keeping most of the winter. Tree slow in coming into bearing, but productive.
Clairgeau: A very attractive, large, late-keeping Pear of only fair quality. Tree productive.
Clapp Favorite: Large, attractive, good quality, midseason. Tree susceptible to blight.
Comice: The best-flavored of all Pears, but grown only in Oregon and the Santa Clara Valley of California. It bruises easily, and the tree is not productive enough for commercial planting but is a splendid variety for home gardens.
Dana Hovey: A small, late-ripening, very high-quality Pear suitable for home use, but the tree is not productive enough for commercial planting.
Ewart: Large, greenish-yellow, good quality. Tree productive. A promising new Pear well worthy of trial. A late variety.
Flemish Beauty: This is a high-quality Pear that is very susceptible to scab disease. The trees are hardier than those of most varieties. A midseason variety.
Giffard: Very early, but of low quality.
Gorham: Large, good, midseason. Tree moderately productive.
Seckel: Small, attractive, highest quality, midseason. Tree slow in coming into bearing, blightresistant, one of the best for home use and for pickling.
Sheldon: Medium sized; reddish brown, highquality, late. Tree not very productive. Excellent for home use.
Tyson: Small, sweet, good, early. Tree vigorous, hardy, blight-resistant. A good variety for home use.
Winter Nelis: Medium sized, greenish-yellow, russeted, very good. Tree regular in bearing, small and of poor growth habit. A widely distributed winter Pear on the West Coast but little grown in the East.
Several unusually hardy Pears recommended for culture in Minnesota are Bantam, Mendel, Parker, Patten and Tait No. 2.
The European Pear has been hybridized with the Sand Pear from China, and a number of varieties have been introduced. They are coarsefleshed, contain many grit cells, and are much inferior in flavor to the European Pears. They are, however, sufficiently resistant to blight to be grown in the warmer parts of the eastern United States where blight prevents the culture of the European Pears. Kieffer, the best-known variety of this group, is heavy yielding and is extensively grown, especially for canning.
Others of the same type are Garber, Le Conte, Pineapple and Douglas. New and promising is Waite, a very blight-resistant variety. Orient and several recently introduced varieties from the Tennessee Agricultural Experiment Station belong in this group and should be tried in areas where Pear blight disease is severe.