IALR Strengthening Asian Pear Market
Monday, September 19, 2016
Funded by a two-year Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) grant, the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) has shown impressive results for participating Asian pear growers.
IALR scientist, Dr. Kedong Da, demonstrated a bagging technique with three types of bags for Saunders Brothers Farm in Nelson County and Virginia Gold Orchard in Rockbridge County. Pre-harvest bagging is a successful technique used in Asian countries to produce high-value fruits and protect fruits from insects, chemical sprays, hail, and birds. Dr. Da and IALR research assistant, Samantha Smith-Herndon, placed the Asian pears in three types of bags in May. The bags are approximately 6 by 8 inches and allow the pears (or other fruit) to grow in them from May to harvest. Of the three bags tested, the double-layer paper bags produced the best quality fruit.
"What the Institute has done has allowed us to demonstrate for our own future the benefit of fruit bagging. Not necessarily organic, but more healthy and with less chemicals,” said Paul Estabrook, Virginia Gold Orchard Owner.
The bag costs are minimal and on average a grower can bag 2,500 pears in one day. The immediate economic impact for growers includes a higher yield, better visual qualities for more marketable fruits, and a significantly reduced pesticide residue.
Two types of pears are grown in Virginia, European and Asian. The European pear is most commonly available in stores. The Asian pear has rapidly increased its market share in the United States due to its attractive appearance and white, crisp, and sweet flesh. The potential exists to increase Virginia-grown Asian pear production and market share.
According to IALR Scientist Dr. Da, farm size, soil type, and climate differences have restricted technologies successfully applied in the Pacific Northwest of U.S. from being applied to Virginia’s small-medium sized farms; especially to Virginia organic farmers whose cultivation practice is quite different from commercial growers utilizing mechanical pruning and chemical thinning.