Asian Pears, an alternative crop for Northeast fruit growers – Developing a Plant Growth Regulator Thinning Program to Ensure Profitability

Project Overview

ONE08-090
Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2008: $9,997.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: Northeast
State: New Jersey
Project Leader:
Daniel Ward
Rutgers University

Annual Reports

Commodities

  • Fruits: pears, general tree fruits

Practices

  • Crop Production: application rate management
  • Education and Training: extension, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development
  • Production Systems: general crop production
  • Sustainable Communities: ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, local and regional food systems, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Urbanization and development pressure are changing the agricultural industry throughout the northeastern United States. New Jersey serves as a prime example of a rapidly urbanizing state. Fruit growers remaining have adapted to diversified direct market selling. Growers utilize a combination of direct market sales, including roadside stands, pick-your-own and tailgate marketing in New Jersey and New York City farmer’s markets. In this, the most densely populated state in the nation, fruit growers have had to diversify not only their direct marketing mix but, also continue to consider new high value crops addressing changing demographics and resulting potential markets. Currently over ten percent of the region’s population is of Asian heritage accounting for over one million people. Asian pears are a favorite commodity of this population having gone mainstream though the marketing efforts of the larger chain stores. Currently there are approximately 200 acres of Asian pears in New Jersey over 500 acres in Pennsylvania, 300 in New York and several hundred more in Maryland and New England with an expanding market potential. Asian pear fruit quality and price is largely determined by fruit size. Large fruit are highly desired and bring excellent market price. Small fruit are difficult to sell and command much lower prices. Most cultivars of Asian pears bloom heavily every year. Asian pears must be thinned annually to achieve optimum fruit size and avoid alternate bearing. Currently, Asian pear thinning is done exclusively by hand and is very costly; from 1-4 person-hours per tree is required on mature trees. Current orchard production systems for Asian pears results in 300 trees per acre. New Jersey agricultural labor is in extremely short supply and a premium is paid for skilled labor, $8-12 per hour. This brings the labor cost for hand thinning to as high as $6000-$12,000 dollars per acre to obtain premium fruit. Asian pear growers urgently need an affordable effective fruit thinner if they are to retain profitability and continue to adopt the cultivation of this crop. Relative efficacy, safety of plant growth regulators (PGR’s) as thinners, relative sensitivity of cultivars, appropriate timing of application and appropriate rates of application are all unknown for Asian pears. Previous attempts at PGR thinning of Asian pear have met with limited success.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Our solution is to develop a program of fruit thinning for Asian pears using labeled PGR’s to alleviate the shortage of agricultural labor. Growing Asian pears will be significantly more efficient requiring much less labor with the development of effective, economical PGR fruit thinners. This will help to ensure the economic viability of fruit growers in the North East.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.