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 2009 were successfully accomplished and their resulting data has been analyzed and partially summarized. Direct outputs of data generation, collection, analysis, and summarization, have been accomplished. Further reporting and impact assessment remain.
Our field results are encouraging. Briefly, in both experiments in Northern New Jersey 200 and 250 ppm the cytokinin formulation (MaxCel) reduced fruit set significantly but, 200 ppm was not different from 250 ppm (Fig 1). Time required for hand thinning was significantly reduced in the experiments in Northern New Jersey in ‘Hosui’ trees treated with 250 ppm and in ‘Kosui’ trees treated with either 200 or 250 ppm (Fig 2). Our evidence indicates that cytokinins (MaxCel) can be an effective thinner for some Asian pears.
Preliminary results from 2008 were reported at the Northeast 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. Additional results including the 2009 experiments were reported at Northeast Plant Growth Regulator Meeting in Wilkes-Barre, PA in March 2009 and at the Annual Conference of the ASHS in St. Louis, MO in July 2009. Two integrative talks (one in English and one in a Spanish language session) were presented to growers at the Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Growers Conference in Hershey, PA in February 2010.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Asian pear growers have expressed high levels of interest in this technology as a means to increase their profitability. Some participants have used the thinning agent in trees not being used for our experiments. Our work has stimulated some NJ growers to begin using the thinner on other cultivars of Asian Pears being grown in the region.
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