Asian Pears, an alternative crop for Northeast fruit growers – Developing a Plant Growth Regulator Thinning Program to Ensure Profitability
Urbanization and development pressures in the Northeast are forcing growers to utilize a combination of direct market sales, including roadside stands, pick-your-own and tailgate marketing at farmer’s markets. 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. Asian pears are a favorite commodity of the large Asian 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. 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 the labor cost for hand thinning can be 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. Previous attempts at PGR thinning of Asian pear have met with limited success.
Our objective is to develop a program of fruit thinning for Asian pears using labeled PGR’s. 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.
The field trials for in 2008 were successfully accomplished and their resulting data is being analyzed. Results from 2008 experiments will be reported in 2009.
Preliminary results were reported at the North East Plant Growth Regulator Meeting in Wilkes-Barre, PA in March 2008, the NorthEast Regional Meeting of the ASHS in New Brunswick, NJ in January 2008, and at the Annual Conference of the ASHS in Orlando FL in July 2008.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Response from participating farmers has been positive. Results are being prepared for dissemination to grower audiences in 2009 via meetings and the worldwide web.
Chestnut Run Farm
164 Woodstown-Daretown Road
Pilesgrove, NJ 08098
Office Phone: 8567692158
County Agricultural Agent
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Hunterdon County
P.O. Box 2900
Flemington, NJ 08822
Office Phone: (908) 788-1339
Pittstown Fruit Farms
1074 Croton Road
Pittstown, NJ 08867