Rogue River Valley, Oregon, as a pear country apparently has the world beaten. Recently Medford pears of all varieties have broken records for prices. The records for high sales there this year are: $8.40 a box for Cornices, $5.05 a box for Bartletts, $5.60 for D'Anjous, $4.10 for Beurre-Bosc and $3.50 for Howells and Winter Nelis. From sixteen acres of the latter variety Fred H. Hopkins netted $19,000, and even this record is equaled and surpassed by other orchards. G. H. Hover purchased ten acres fifteen months ago, paying the record price of $560 an acre. Since then he has sold two crops of Comice and Buerre-Bosc pears for a total of $9600, or a profit of $4000 above the purchase price.
"Among Fruit Growers of the Pacific Coast," Better Fruit, December 1907, page 19
HARVESTING ROGUE RIVER VALLEY'S PEAR CROPThe Rogue River pears are famous the world over for the excellent quality of the fruit and the scientific methods in handling them. All varieties do equally well here; in fact, this is the acknowledged home of the pear. There are, however, only about half a dozen varieties grown commercially--the Bartlett, Comice, Anjou, Bosc, Howell and Winter Nelis. Each of these varieties have their good qualities, and it is often a disputed question among growers as to which variety brings the best returns. While the writer has handled hundreds of cars of each of these varieties, he is not prepared to say just which variety has made the best record. All have made big money for the grower. We have seen the Comice sell in the markets for five dollars per half box. Again, we have seen the Anjou do equally as well. The Bartlett has made its record of four or five dollars per box, and when we take into consideration the wonderful productiveness of this pear we are constrained to say that they stand at the head of the class.
BY J. A. PERRY, MEDFORD, OREGON
While we believe that nowhere in the world do pears grow to such perfection as they do in the Rogue River Valley, yet we realize that the high prices and the splendid reputation our pears has attained is due to a certain extent to the scientific methods employed in growing, picking and packing the fruit.
The commercial pear orchard receives the very best care possible from the time the young trees are planted until they are producing their golden fruit, which is usually from five to six years. Anyone seeking a position as foreman on one of our pear orchards must, before he is allowed to take charge, convince the owner that he is experienced in orchard work. The trees are too valuable to permit of taking any chances, or making mistakes in pruning or caring for them in anything but a scientific manner.
The orchardist who grows pears has a decided advantage over the one who grows apples, the young pear trees being much easier cared for from the time they are planted. Insect pests do not attack them as much as they do apple trees. In fact, pear trees are very little trouble or expense to grow; they simply want pruning and reasonable cultivation. Anyone may grow a first-class pear orchard in the Rogue River Valley with what information he may get by attending our horticultural meetings and hearing the methods explained by scientific orchardists and by specialists stationed here to assist the growers.
Pears never require over two sprayings to keep out the worms. San Jose scale is much easier kept out of pear orchards than the apple orchard. Many people think that because the pear is a very delicate fruit that they are difficult to handle, but we wish to say that after ten years' experience in handling all varieties of fruit we much prefer handling pears to apples. Grading is easier. There are not nearly as large a percent of seconds or culls as there are in any apple crop, and where the grower is prepared to handle fruit in the proper manner, as they are in the Rogue River Valley, pears are handled with scarcely any loss from injury in handling.
All fruit must be handled carefully, and the grower that does not exercise great care in picking, packing and shipping his fruit can not expect to be successful. Pears must be picked at the proper time. We may say there is no fixed rule to go by, but the orchardists of the valley are experts in this respect. They are able to determine the very day the fruit will do to come off the tree and yet mature into perfect fruit. This is a very important factor in marketing a pear crop. If picked from the tree too green the fruit will be lacking in sugar and will shrivel and decay without ever getting fit to eat. On the other hand, if allowed to stay on the tree too long, the shipping quality of the fruit is materially injured. The grower must have everything in readiness when the fruit is ready to come off, as there is no time to be lost.
First, he has all his orchard boxes gone over to see that they are in good condition. Then he gets his wagons that are to haul the fruit from the orchard to the packing house, and from the packing house to the car, in shape, providing each with a set of springs and cover to keep out the hot sun and dust. He then procures enough pickers and packers to pick at least one car of pears every day, and if the crop be large he may load two or more each day. We always like to load each day's pack in the iced car the same day it is packed, and get the fruit cooled out as soon as possible, thus stopping the ripening process. We hope in the near future to have a pre-cooling plant established in the valley. This will extend the marketing period of our pears over three or four weeks, which will mean much to the grower. Bartletts are usually ready to pick from the tenth to fifteenth of August, and the grower who has several varieties is able to keep his crew working from the time Bartletts ripen until the first of October, as the different varieties ripen one after the other; Bartletts first, then the Howell, the Anjou, the Bosc, Comice, and last of all the Winter Nelis, which ripen about the same time, or just before, we commence to pick winter apples. Where a grower has a good-sized orchard, it is very desirable to have several varieties, for this reason.
The methods of packing fruit have changed quite noticeably in the last few years. In former years we used printed boxes, having the grower's name and the district from which the fruit was grown printed on the end of the box. This has been discontinued, for various reasons, and we now use a plain box made from the best pine lumber, and place on the end of the box a nice lithograph label. The grower's name, the variety and number of pears is neatly stamped on the box, thus giving the buyer a chance to know just what the box contains.
Pears are packed at less expense than apples, for the reason that no lining or layer paper is used. Grading is not as expensive. Pears must be packed in a nice, neat manner to make a good appearance in the market, as nothing looks worse than a ragged, poorly packed box of pears. We use for most all pears eight by ten duplex wrapping paper, except some of the very largest sizes, which require a larger paper. The paper should always be full large for the pear, and serves to a certain extent to form a cushion for the fruit. The folds of the paper should always come underneath the pear, being perfectly smooth on top. Pears should have a larger swell in the box than apples, and should weigh at least fifty-two pounds.
In order that the box may look neat and have full weight, the swell must be built in the box as it is packed. Packing schools are conducted each year to give the new beginners a chance to learn the work before they are required to commence packing for shipment. The accompanying cut shows a class of twenty-five taking lessons in one of these schools. Several instructors are employed, as it is necessary to show the pupil, it being very hard to tell anyone how to put up a pack so that they will be able to do the work properly. With a good instructor to show them, it is possible for a new beginner to learn so that they may put up a very good pack in a few days if they really try to learn. We find many who never learn, for the reason that they do not take an interest in the work. The accompanying cut shows a very good commercial pack of pears. They are all four-tier, however. We are sorry that we haven't a cut of a five-tier pack, as that is used mostly and is the most desirable size. The cut shows very well the manner of placing the pears in the box, the diagonal pack being always used. Box No. 1 shows the three, two pack, four and five up the box, and contains ninety pears. A person that does not understand packing will think that the box contains ninety-two pears, but the tiers are not all the same. The first tier put in the box was two pears, put in calyx toward the packer and about equal distance from the sides of the box and from each other. In the next row we place three pears, stem toward the packer, in the three spaces on the sides and in the center. Next two, then three, and so on. You will find this tier has only twenty-two pears in it, while the next tier will have twenty-three, so that we have two tiers of twenty-two and two of twenty-three, or ninety pears. Box No. 2 is three-four pack, four-four up the box, and contains twenty-eight to the tier, or 112 pears. Box No. 3 is three-three pack, four-four up the box, and contains ninety-six pears. This box is packed exactly like the largest size five-tier, and should have been packed five-tier. If packed the same way five-tier it would contain 120 pears. The five-tier packs are three-three pack, four-four up the box, 120 pears; three-three pack, four-five up the box, 135 pears; three-three pack, five-five up the box, 150 pears. We seldom pack smaller than the latter size in the five-tier pack. Six-tier are sometimes packed in Winter Nelis, or some of the small varieties, and may pack as many as 200 pears to the box. Some of our fancy pears are packed in the half box, such as the Comice, Anjous and other varieties when they are very large and fine. We believe it pays to put up pears in the half box if the fruit is really fancy. In this pack the work is done almost the same, except we use a fine lace paper to line the sides of the box; a beautiful lithograph top mat is placed over the top of the fruit after the box is packed, the lace lining being folded over so that the center of the mat shows, making a very attractive package. The half box contains from thirty to fifty pears.
Better Fruit, August 1910, pages 21-22
In the discussion of pears and pear culture in the Northwest, E. E. Whistler of Medford, Oregon, stated that they had found Bartlett, Anjou and Beurre Bosc most reliable and most profitable. They have experimented with the Comice, had sold a car of it for the highest prices ever paid for pears in New York, but the variety proves so difficult to grow, so delicate and tender, that they wish now to forget it and not to plant this variety. To guard against blight requires watchful care, and the removal of the blighted portion of each tree as soon as blight appears; this, by removing source of infection, lessens the probability of blight. The character of cultivation has something to do with the production of blight. Blight is more likely to occur when trees are growing rapidly and rankly, the softer tissues admitting of the reception of blight spores. Therefore such method of cultivation, or lack of cultivation, as will give a comparatively slow growth and well-ripened wood lessens the probability of blight. In large commercial pear orchards it is customary to employ a man during the blighting months--June and July--to watch the orchard carefully, cutting out the blight as it appears. In smaller orchards watchful care on the part of the men who are doing the cultivating has proved sufficient to keep the blight in check.
E. F. Stephens, "Idaho State Horticultural Meeting," Better Fruit, March 1912, pages 89-90
Pear Culture in the Famous Rogue River Valley, OregonThe pear is rapidly becoming the leading fruit in the Rogue River Valley. It is true that more apples than pears have been shipped out of the valley during past years, and more will undoubtedly be shipped out during the present season; nevertheless the output of pears during the past two or three years has almost equaled that of apples, and it is only a matter of a few years when the output of pears will be greater than that of apples. During the past three years the planting of pear trees has exceeded that of apples, and during the season just passed at least three times as many pear trees as apple trees were planted. Where old apple orchards are being replaced the pear in nearly every instance is supplanting them.
By F. C. Reimer, Southern Oregon Experiment Station, Talent
There are excellent reasons for this. First, our growers have found pear growing more profitable than apple growing, due to the small output of pears throughout the United States as compared with the output of apples. Statistics show that the pear industry in nearly every state in the Union, with the exception of Oregon, has been on the decline. Many of the extensive orchards in the East and nearly all of those in the South have been wiped out by pear blight. And in two of the leading pear states the pear thrips has become a very serious menace to the industry. Perhaps the most important reason, however, for the growth of the industry in this valley is the fact that the natural conditions are very favorable to this fruit. The winters are very mild and damp so that the fruit buds of the most tender varieties are never injured by winter cold. The summers are long, warm, sunny and comparatively dry. This gives ample time for all the late varieties to mature properly, and it also ensures a very firm fruit which has remarkable keeping and shipping qualities, enabling growers to ship their fruit to the large Eastern and European markets. Under these climatic conditions some of the serious fungus troubles have never become serious, as will be explained later in this article.
The valley is surrounded on all sides by high mountain ranges, hence it is remarkably free from high winds. This is of great importance during the late summer and fall months when the fruit is maturing. Some of our finest varieties, as Comice, Howell and d'Anjou, are tender skinned, and during strong winds when the fruit is being rubbed by branches, or even leaves, the delicate skin is bruised and discolored. The absence of strong winds has much to do with the success of these varieties in this locality. During the last stages of ripening the fruit of some varieties is readily shaken from the tree by strong winds, rendering it unfit for distant shipment. This is particularly true of the Clairgeau, the Howell and to some extent of the Bartlett, especially the seedless specimens. With the exception of the Clairgeau, which is grown only to a limited extent, it is very rare indeed that any of the varieties suffer seriously from this cause here.
The pear blooms early in the spring, and during unfavorable seasons the blossoms are injured or killed by heavy frosts. Such injury can usually be avoided by orchard heating or smudging. It is not difficult to retain the heat and smoke in and over an orchard where there are no strong winds. This is why orchard heating is so extensively and successfully practiced in this valley. The bright, sunny weather which usually prevails, and the absence of strong winds, are very favorable to bees in cross-pollinating the blossoms. Another important characteristic is the long blooming season of the various varieties. This gives ample opportunity for the proper cross-pollination and fertilization of the blossoms. The blooming season lasts about two weeks, and some varieties are often in bloom for three weeks.
Most of the soils are very heavy, containing a high percentage of clay. It is well known by experienced pear growers that the pear delights in such soils. These soils are very retentive of moisture, ensuring the proper development of the fruit without irrigation when properly tilled. Chemical analysis shows that practically all of them are very rich in potash, lime and magnesium. These elements are of great value in fruit growing. The lime and potash ensure a firm fruit of good keeping quality, and the potash also forms the basis of the various fruit acids which are so essential in the development of high quality. The large quantities of lime in the soil also prevent the souring of the land where proper drainage is lacking. According to the soil survey made by the Bureau of Soils there are forty-three types to be found here. Some of these are admirably suited to pear culture, while others are of little or very doubtful value for this purpose. With such a variety of soils it is not difficult to find types suited for the different varieties. As a rule the heavier soils such as the clays, clay loams and adobes are preferred for pears. The soil should be rather deep and of at least average fertility. It must also be well drained for most of the varieties, especially for the Comice, d'Anjou, Bosc and Howell. The Winter Nelis and Bartlett can endure far more moisture and poorer drainage than any of the other varieties. The Bartlett can be grown on a greater variety of soils than any other variety, but for best results a deep, rich clay loam should be selected. The Winter Nelis must have a moist, strong soil to obtain good size and large crops. The Comice is very particular about soil and is extremely sensitive to unfavorable soil. On the moist rich soils the tree grows too vigorously and is a shy bearer. It does best on a warm, well-drained sandy or silt loam or very light clay loam.
The distance apart to plant the trees depends on the variety. Upright growers like Comice and Bartlett may be planted as close as 20 by 20 feet. Howell, Bosc, Clairgeau and d'Anjou should have 25 by 25 feet, while Winter Nelis, which is a large and spreading tree, will require 30 by 30 feet. Planting may be done either in late fall or very early spring. Unless the work can be done very early spring planting should be discouraged. On the heavier soils the soil does not become well settled around the roots when planted late in the spring, and unless irrigation is practiced many of the trees will die or make a very poor growth the first season.
The cultivation of pear orchards is similar to that of apple orchards. It should commence early in the spring and must be thorough. Since very little irrigation is practiced it becomes necessary to maintain a deep dust mulch on the surface. Where the soil is deficient in humus, which is true in most of the orchards, a winter cover crop should be grown to supply this. For this purpose we have found the following excellent: Rye, winter oats, barley and winter vetch. The seed
should be sown about the first of September.
The question of pruning is a large and important one under the peculiar conditions in the valley. On the heavier soils the trees are usually slow in coming into bearing and heavy pruning augments the trouble; therefore the minimum should be given that will ensure a strong and properly formed framework. Some of the pruning done is altogether too heavy. One thing is essential in pruning pears where pear blight exists, and that is to grow the vase-shaped or open-center tree. This gives a much better opportunity to fight the disease. The central leader should not be permitted in a pear tree, as the loss from blight under such conditions is very great. In pruning the habit of the variety must be taken into consideration. The Comice, which is a strictly upright grower, and the Bosc, which is a straggling grower, should not be pruned alike.
The valley is fortunate in being free from some of the most serious insects which attack the pear in some other sections. The true pear thrips, which is proving so serious in two other pear states, has never been found in this valley. The pear psylla, which is so serious in the Eastern States, has never been introduced. The most serious insects that we have to contend with are the codling moth, the San Jose scale, the blister mite and the rusty leaf mite. These are all controlled by proper spraying.
The only very serious disease of the pear here is the pear blight. This is a bacterial disease and is so widespread and generally known that a description is not necessary here. This disease has been vigorously fought in this valley almost from the time of its introduction about seven years ago. A thorough system of inspection has been maintained and rigid regulations have been enforced. The growers have been instructed to recognize the disease and in proper methods of combating it. It should be stated that they are fighting it vigorously and effectively. Fortunately the pear scab, one of the worst fungus diseases of the pear, has never given any serious trouble owing to our dry summer atmosphere.
Since the pear blooms early and the best pear soils and orchards are found on the floor of the valley, frosts often endanger the pear blossoms. To overcome this, frost fighting has been successfully practiced for a number of years. For this purpose wood, old tree prunings and manure were first burned, but during the last three years crude and distillate oils have been largely used. As the methods and practices have been so fully described in various issues of Better Fruit and experiment station and government bulletins it will not be necessary to go into the details of the practice in this article.
It is fortunate that the pear industry in this valley was started by a man who was familiar with the best commercial varieties of pears. He not only knew their commercial value but also their soil requirements. As he planted many commercial pear orchards and was for many years the leading spirit in the industry here, the variety selections have as a rule been very good. After many years of pear growing it is doubtful whether better selections of varieties could be made today in most instances. It is also fortunate that the commercial plantings have been largely confined to a small number of varieties. At the present time only six varieties are extensively grown. These are Bartlett, Howell, d'Anjou, Bosc, Comice and Winter Nelis. Clairgeau and Beurre Easter are still grown in limited quantities. P. Barry is now being planted in some of the newer orchards. The Bartlett has been more extensively planted than any other variety in the past, and is still popular. As this variety ripens early and as it often competes on the market with the latest shipments of Bartletts from California, many of our growers are top grafting their Bartlett trees to some of the later varieties.
More mistakes have probably been made by growers in planting the Comice than with any other variety. For years this variety has been regarded as the standard of excellence for quality and has always brought the highest prices. Hence the variety has been widely planted, and often on moist, rich, cold soils, where it has proved a shy bearer. This variety is extremely sensitive to unsuitable soils and very limited in its range of adaptability. It will therefore always be produced in limited quantities; and the grower who has suitable soil and can grow it successfully is very fortunate indeed. This variety is notably self-sterile. During the past five years the Bosc has become very popular and is now being very extensively planted. It comes into bearing rather young, is a heavy and regular bearer, the tree is adapted to several types of soil, and the fruit is of excellent quality. The variety grows to perfection here and becomes exceptionally large. In fact the only criticism the market has made of the variety as grown here is its large size, especially when grown on very rich, moist soils. The d'Anjou has always been a very popular variety here, and it is very highly regarded by the commission men and the consumer. It attains good size, is of excellent quality and a good shipper. The tree is slow in coming into bearing and on some soils has proved a shy bearer.
The Howell is well suited to the conditions here. It comes into bearing young, is a heavy and regular bearer and is adapted to a variety of soils. It is rapidly decreasing in popular esteem, however, because of its susceptibility to blight and the difficulty with which this disease is controlled in this variety. The Winter Nelis has always been the most popular very late variety. There will probably never be an overproduction of this variety, as it is very particular in its soil requirements and is very tardy in coming into bearing. It is also very sensitive to weather conditions during the blooming season and often fails to pollinate properly.
It is a notable fact that nearly all of our leading varieties have originated in Europe. Bartlett comes from England, Bosc and Winter Nelis from Belgium and Comice, Clairgeau and d'Anjou from France. The Howell is the only American variety that has been largely grown here. The P. Barry and Seckel, two other American varieties, have not been extensively grown here up to the present time. It is readily seen from the above that there is much room for improvement in the matter of varieties. Every variety mentioned has some objectionable features about it. We believe that varieties more suitable for certain reasons may possibly be obtained. Of all the cultivated varieties in existence not more than fifty have ever been grown in this valley and not more than fifteen have ever been extensively and thoroughly tested. This experiment station is now testing several hundred varieties of pears from all parts of the world to determine their suitability to the local conditions.
Better Fruit, September 1913, pages 11-12
Pear Culture--History and Present StatusThe pear is without doubt one of the most favorite fruits, although in its wild state its astringent qualities are so pronounced as to render it unpalatable. Under cultivation it has become an excellent fruit for all purposes, whether for dessert, for canning, for culinary use or in the fresh state. The cultivation of the pear extends to the remotest antiquity. It is mentioned in the oldest Greek writings and was cultivated by the Romans. It was common in Syria, Egypt and Greece, and from the latter country was introduced into Italy. The word "pear" or its equivalent occurs in all Celtic languages, while we also find it in Slavonic and other dialects; and from this it is inferred that cultivation of the pear, from the shores of the Caspian Sea to the Atlantic, was practiced in very ancient times. According to Virgil, Cato, Pliny and other Roman writers, the varieties in cultivation were very numerous, and from the names of important varieties usually referred to the countries from which the trees were imported. Unfortunately, none of the old Roman varieties exist today, but from the writings of Pliny we have every reason to believe that their best varieties of pears were very poor in comparison with the choice varieties under cultivation at the present time.
By P. J. O'Gara. Pathologist, Medford Oregon
The pear of quality really dates from about the seventeenth century. However, it was not until Professor Van Mons of the University of Louvain, Belgium, by his perseverance and indefatigable labors succeeded in producing an immense number of new varieties of pears by selective breeding, that the growing of pears of commercial quality was put upon a sound basis. His whole life was mostly devoted to pear culture, and from among the 80,000 seedlings raised by himself we find the finest cultivated varieties of today--such as Bosc, Diel and others. The work of Van Mons has given the little country of Belgium the title of "The Eden of the Pear Tree." The net results of his work were given to the world a little more than one hundred years ago. Another worker, Thomas Andrew Knight, an Englishman, by hybridizing also produced varieties of noted quality. These two scientists and their followers, working from different points of view, produced fruits that have, by further cultivation, reached the limit of perfection.
From the standpoint of the botanist, there are some differences in opinion as to the species from which cultivated pears are descendants. There are some who hold that cultivated pears have descended from at least three species, while others who have very carefully studied the subject refer all cultivated pears to one species, the individuals of which have in course of time diverged in various directions so as to form now six races: (1) Celtic, (2) Germanic, (3) Hellenic, (4) Pontic, (5) Indian, (G) Mongolic. From the Germanic race we have what is commonly known as the European pear, Pyrus communis, while from the Mongolic race we have the Oriental pear, Pyrus chinensis. Of course, it is understood that there are many wild varieties which come under the various groups. From the horticulturist's point of view there is a totally different classification, namely, dwarf, standard and Oriental. The dwarf pear consists mainly of European varieties propagated by grafting onto rooted cuttings of the Angiers quince. The Japan Golden Russet is also used for dwarfing, but it is to be generally understood that the dwarf pear means the pear worked on the quince root. Standards consist of the European varieties propagated on the pear root, the stocks for this purpose being European or Japan pear seedlings or rooted cuttings of some of the Oriental pears. The Orientals are those which are partly or wholly of Chinese of Japanese origin. So far as the pure Oriental pear is concerned, there are very few plantings. The important commercial varieties of this group are really hybrids between the Oriental and the European pears and consist of such varieties as Kieffer, La Conte, Garber, Smith and others of minor importance. The reason for this separation into three groups is because the requirements of the varieties coming under each group are usually quite different, demanding distinctive cultural methods. With few exceptions, dwarfs must be considered as belonging to the small gardener or the amateur horticulturist; the Oriental hybrids, so far as the quality of their fruit is concerned, have no place in the commercial pear orchards of the Pacific Coast. Therefore, in considering commercial pear growing in the better sections of the extreme West, we must have in mind the better varieties which have sprung from the European type or group grown as standard trees.
In looking over the more or less voluminous literature on pear culture, we find it frequently stated that pear trees are more difficult to maintain in a healthy, productive condition than apple trees, and cannot be grown with the same degree of success over so wide an area of country. This statement is only partly true, for while the pear does not enjoy the same degree of success over so wide an area of country as does the apple, nevertheless with proper soil and climatic conditions the pear will much outlive the apple. There are natural pear sections or districts, just as there are apple districts, and given the suitable varieties for such districts the pear will always outlive the apple. At the same time the pear will have produced commercial fruit for a longer period and the net returns will be much greater. In its wild state it is hardier and longer lived than the apple, making a taller and more pyramidal head and becoming much larger in trunk diameter. While apples are known to reach the great age of 200 years, many pear trees are known to be 500 years old. On the Pacific Coast we find pear trees still in bearing in the old Mission orchards of California. These pear trees after nearly two and a quarter centuries are still holding their own, with a few olives and date palms as companions standing as reminders of the old civilization.
In a short article such as this is it is quite impossible to discuss the important subject of varieties at any length. Considering the Pacific Coast, we find a wide variety of soil types (even in restricted areas), climatic conditions, elevation, etc. The varieties best adapted under the various conditions is a subject for wide discussion. In a few localities, principally throughout California and the Rogue River Valley in Southern Oregon, the matter of varieties best suited to the varying conditions has been well worked out, so that at this time growers are not making the mistakes so common in the past. Besides the matter of soils, climatic conditions, etc., the important matter of the market demands for the various varieties must be well understood. Taking the Rogue River Valley as an example, all plantings now made, or which have been made during the past five or six years, take into consideration all the above factors. In going over my notes I find that over fifty varieties of pears may be found growing in the Rogue River Valley, yet out of this number seven varieties are really commercial. The varieties in the order of their ripening are Bartlett, Clairgeau, Howell, d'Anjou, Bosc, Comice, Nelis. Besides these seven varieties, we have planted considerable acreages of P. Barry and Forelle; however, these latter varieties are not yet in bearing commercially. I do not mean to say that the other varieties grown in the valley are not good; as a matter of fact they are excellent, nevertheless the market demand does not warrant the multiplication of varieties. In the seven commercial varieties mentioned it would be just as well to omit the Clairgeau, which in no way compares with the excellence of the other varieties. The great pear districts of the Pacific Coast, so far as the future of the pear industry is concerned, will be Southern Oregon (Rogue River Valley) and California, principally the great Sacramento Valley and its tributary districts. In this natural pear belt anyone or all of the commercial varieties of pears may be grown; that is to say, hundreds of varieties. But pear growers must not fall into the error of planting too many varieties, as has been the case in commercial apple growing throughout the entire Northwest. Not long ago a horticulturist, waxing enthusiastic over the excellent quality of the pear as grown in this district (Rogue River Valley), said that the pear growers were making a mistake in not growing at least 100 varieties. Viewing the pear situation from the apple standpoint, especially considering market conditions, it would be financial suicide for any district to grow commercially more than six or eight varieties. If there is any doubt in the matter of too many varieties it would be well for the reader to secure a copy of a paper written by Mr. W. F. Gwin, manager Northwest Fruit Exchange, Portland, Oregon, entitled "What Is the Matter With the Apple Business?" In this most excellent paper Mr. Gwin shows clearly the danger of too many varieties.
It sometimes happens that new or better varieties are needed, but they should be added with the ultimate intention of having them take the place of inferior varieties already growing and not to increase the total number of varieties. This holds true with the individual as well as with the district as a whole. Where orchards are large the number of varieties grown may be the maximum number suited to the district, providing the soils are suitable; however, with the small grower it is best to restrict the plantings to two or three varieties. As a business proposition, it is never advisable to plant less of anyone variety than will produce carload shipments, unless it be for pollination purposes.
In setting out a pear orchard less regard may be had for the character of the soil than for almost any other kind of fruit. It will generally do well over a tight clay hardpan where almost any other fruit would fail. It will also thrive in clay loams and adobes as well as in calcareous and alkali soils. The pear will flourish whether the water is near or far from the surface, and can endure complete submergence in water for a considerable length of time without being killed. During periods of high water in the lower Sacramento River districts I have seen pear orchards completely under water, which did not fully subside for several months. The regular orchard work, such as spraying, pruning and thinning, was carried on by the use of boats and barges. However, the pear demands a good soil for its best development, and naturally the heavier alluvial, clay loam and other types rich in plant food are the best. The variety which is least exacting is the Bartlett. Anjou, Clairgeau, Howell, Nelis and Bosc thrive on heavy soils, including the heavy adobes. For early bearing such varieties as the Bosc and Comice are best grown upon the clay loam soils. The Comice comes into bearing rather slowly if grown on too heavy soil. While the Nelis produces the best quality of fruit on the lighter clay loam soils it does not attain as good size as the market demands. However, increased size of the fruit might be secured by irrigating during seasons of minimum rainfall.
The distance for planting standard pear trees will depend somewhat upon the varieties. Due regard must be had for such varieties as the Bosc or Anjou, which have a tendency to grow in a spreading form, as against the Comice and Bartlett, which are naturally upright growers. The maximum distance for spreading varieties should not be over 30 feet, either square or hexagonal system. The minimum distance should not be less than 22 feet, square or hexagonal. The average distance practiced in the Rogue River Valley is 25 feet, both systems. However, the common practice is not to plant solid blocks of anyone variety, for the reason that certain varieties are self-sterile and require the pollen of other varieties to fertilize the blossoms.
Self-sterility and self-fertility are not constant quantities in the same variety; that is to say, the variety may be self-sterile in one district and self-fertile in another. One cannot tell beforehand just what a variety will do when taken from one district into another where climatic conditions and soils are very different. On the Pacific Coast there is a greater tendency toward self-fertility than in the East, although varieties in the self-sterile group under Eastern conditions and quite self-fertile on the Coast have the quality and form of the fruit improved by crossing. Generally speaking, on the Pacific Coast little or no attention is paid to the Bartlett so far as fertility or sterility is concerned. It regularly sets heavy crops of well-sized fruits with its own pollen. On the other hand, such varieties as Comice and Nelis are completely sterile to their own pollen in the Rogue River Valley, all statements to the contrary notwithstanding. As stated before, the matter of self-sterility and self-fertility should be worked out for the various varieties in each particular district. I have worked this problem out for the Rogue River Valley, and since the data have been published elsewhere I shall not burden the reader with it here.
While volumes might be written on how to prune the pear, the whole principle of pruning may be stated in a single short sentence--use the open head, no matter what variety. In such varieties as tend to grow very upright, they should be pruned so as to throw them more open, while the reverse should be practiced to a certain extent on straggling or spreading varieties. The tree when set out should be headed back so as to stand 18 to 24 inches high. After the first year's growth, the frame limbs should be selected and headed back to 12 or 14 inches. During the growing season, if the trees are making extreme growth and producing too many shoots it is well to pinch back or trim out those that are in excess of the needs of the tree. If the season has been such that the trees have made little or no growth, the shoots should be headed back to a single bud so as to start a new frame of vigorous shoots. The successive years' pruning should be such as to continue the open head, and by shortening in to not over eighteen inches for each cut, stiffen up the body and framework. The frame or scaffold branches need not be pruned of all the lateral shoots. Those to the inside and some on the outside should be removed, but a few may be left as temporary fruiting branches which, by heading in, will readily develop fruit spurs. Fruit borne on these temporary fruiting branches will hang close to the tree and will not have a tendency to throw the tree out of shape, which so often happens where the first crop is borne somewhat above the scaffold limbs. By means of the temporary fruiting branches trees are brought into early bearing, and at the same time no fruit spurs need be permitted on the body or scaffold limbs. The reason for keeping fruit spurs off from the heavy wood is to prevent dangerous body infections of pear blight. Should infection occur on a temporary fruiting branch it is easily removed before any damage is done to the body of the tree. Pears reach the bearing age, under proper care, earlier than do apples, and once in bearing pruning will not have the tendency to throw them out of bearing as it will in apples. However, severe heading of such varieties as Bosc and Comice is not advised; as a matter of fact after they reach the age of five or six years it is best to withhold all pruning for two or three years, save the thinning out of crossing or interfering limbs.
The details of cultivation, fertilization and cover cropping need no extended discussion. To grow fruit of quality demands all that good agricultural practice has taught in the production of other crops; in other words, the pear demands scientific agriculture. Unthrifty trees cannot produce luscious fruit; however, it is not good practice to overstimulate the trees for the reason that they are then much more susceptible to serious injury from pear blight should infection occur. It will be easy for the pear grower to judge whether or not his trees are making sufficient new wood. It will also be easy for him to note by the appearance of the foliage the lack of soil fertility.
Pear growing in the United States is generally on the decrease, the reason for this being pear blight. Many districts that were once known for their heavy pear shipments are now without a single pear tree. In the East we find that southward from the region of the Great Lakes the growing of the better varieties of European pears has been largely abandoned, and to a certain extent we find growing in their stead the two or three Oriental hybrids spoken of elsewhere in this paper. Of course, large quantities of pears are produced in the East, but for the most part they do not compare in quality with the standard varieties grown on the Pacific Coast. This fact is evident from the great difference in price between the Eastern and Western product. While the East and Middle West have suffered much from the ravages of pear blight, many large districts in the West have also had their share of trouble. In some states entire districts have been wiped out, and it is known that in one state only a single pear orchard of about 500 trees remains. The only district on the Pacific Coast which has not only held its own but has actually increased its pear acreage and production is the Rogue River Valley in Southern Oregon. The rate of increase may be shown by the carload shipments made in 1911, 1912 and 1913, which were respectively 125, 250 and 500 cars (1913 crop estimated). Pear blight has been known to be in the district since 1907, so that the growers have had to contend with it for seven seasons. It would seem that some very good work has been done in the control of this disease, as the increased shipments demonstrate. When pear blight came into the Rogue River Valley from the California districts the growers, finding it impossible to get any help from their own state institutions, appealed to the federal government for aid, which was immediately forthcoming. After the United States Department of Agriculture had demonstrated the control of blight the growers, feeling the necessity of continued supervision, established a county pathologist's office, the first of its kind in the United States. This office continues the work first undertaken and carried to success by the Department of Agriculture. The fact that pear growing is on the increase in the Rogue River Valley is due to the efforts of the growers themselves. When they found that there was no possibility of getting help within their own state they immediately set out to help themselves.
It has been stated frequently that pear blight is a disease of pome fruits on the American continent; however, it is now known that the disease has secured a foothold in Europe. It has been reported from at least three countries in Europe, and while it has not yet shown great virulence we are anxiously awaiting what will likely happen when the disease reaches the fine pear districts of Holland, Belgium and France. Now that the disease is in Europe, and will likely spread to the better pear sections, we should more than ever feel the necessity of guarding our pear interests in the better pear-growing sections of the United States; for pear blight anywhere usually means reduced acreage and reduced crops--therefore higher prices. Undoubtedly the countries of Europe will make every effort to prevent the spread of this disease, but the disease being new to them, and not being fully understood by them so far as control is concerned, will mean that there must be some loss once the disease enters a district.
Does pear growing pay? Does it pay to control pear blight? Aside from pear blight, the pear tree is troubled less by insect and fungous pests than is its near relative, the apple. Furthermore, blight is no more severe in the more susceptible varieties of pears than it is in many varieties of apples, notably Spitzenberg, Alexander, Transcendent Crab and many others. The question as to whether it pays to control blight may be easily answered by giving the average prices over a six-year period for pears shipped from the Rogue River Valley. The prices given are those obtained through the association as well as by individual growers, and represent f.o.b. averages for the first and second grades. The average prices received during the years 1907 to 1912, inclusive, are as follows: Bartlett, $1.35; Winter Nelis, $1.65; Howell, $1.95; Bosc, $2.30; Comice, $2.45; Anjou, $2.50.
All apple growers throughout the Northwest know what it costs to raise a box of apples, and, taking everything into consideration, we have found that it costs somewhat less to raise a box of pears.
The future of pear growing in any district will depend upon the ability of the growers to control pear blight. If they are unwilling to cooperate and carry out the work of eradicating the disease, which is the only method of control, it will be just as well for them to pull out their pear trees and have the agony over. For the district which will control pear blight the disease may be considered a blessing in disguise. Owing to the fact that the pear is very prolific and is otherwise very free from troubles, if there were no such disease as pear blight pears could be produced in such enormous quantities that there would be no profit in growing them. But blight will continue to keep the production limited, and there will always be a handsome profit in pears.
Better Fruit, October 1913, pages 10-13
A new bulletin has just been published by the Oregon Agricultural College, "Preliminary Report of Pear Harvesting and Storage Investigations in Rogue River Valley," by Professors C. I. Lewis, J. R. Magness and C. C. Cate. Investigations concerning the harvesting and storage of pears were conducted with several varieties of pears and from eight different orchards, representing different soil types and subject to different soil treatments. The very early picked fruit tends to be astringent and puckery, but that the fruit of the third and fourth pickings is of excellent quality and nearly uniform in flavor and texture.
Better Fruit, August 1918, page 18
Returns with Valuable Data About Pear BlightThe seriousness of fire blight which threatens the pear industry of Oregon and which has already wiped it out in certain sections of the country and how the Southern Oregon branch experiment station hopes to be of service through the propagation of blight-resistant varieties, was told by Prof. F. C. Reimer, superintendent of the stations during Farmer's Week at the Oregon Agricultural College. Prof. Reimer has just returned from his second trip to China for the purpose of obtaining pears which are blight immune. He brought home between 40 and 50 new varieties, and these will be tested at the station next spring and summer.
Prof. Reimer told of oriental customs which were not altogether to his liking. "Chinese hotels," he said, "should be called Chinese hovels. Donkeys, goats, pigs, chickens, and all the vermin God ever made are there. There is no bed, no bedding and no stove. It is a real experience to spend a few nights in one of these places.
"Fifteen to 30 Chinese all sleep in the same room. The Chinese are kicking each other all night long and they snore like a rhinoceros. The noise of the donkeys in another part of the inn is terrific, but when I was given the choice of sleeping next to the Chinese or the donkeys, I chose the donkeys.
"It is a common experience to find a hog in your room rooting in your baggage. One must carry his own cot, bedding and food. The Chinese inn is beyond description."
Prof. Reimer returns with what is undoubtedly the most complete collection of oriental pears in the world. He has also found several species which are practically immune from blight, and by using this type for the root and branch structure, and grafting with the more edible Bartlett, Bosc, or Anjou, it is believed that a pear will be evolved which will not be affected by blight. Professor Reimer is also interested in creating a new species of pear tree entirely by a process of cross fertilization, using the Chinese and American varieties, which would produce a commercial pear, suitable for the table and free from blight infection.
Prof. Reimer's experiments and discoveries are of far-reaching importance, pear growers in all parts of the country being intensely interested in them. In the near future Prof. Reimer will give a lecture on his experiences in China and the result of his research work to date.
Better Fruit, February 1920, page 41
Mention is made of the fact that for the first time in the history of the fruit business in Oregon solid trainloads of pears were shipped this year from the Southern and Western Oregon districts.
"Northwest Fruit Notes from Here and There," Better Fruit, September 1920, page 22
According to estimates of the bureau of crop estimates, Oregon shows indications of having a larger pear crop this year than last. Pear yields in most of the other states are below normal and a good price for the crop generally throughout the country is expected. In some of the Eastern states the estimated yield has been placed as low as 17 percent of normal. The apple crop in the Rogue River district promises a 25 percent increase, the bureau reports, while some of the Willamette Valley orchards are expected to produce nearly double the crop of apples they did a year ago. Other orchards in the latter region, however, which are affected with fungus will produce less.
"Marketing News of Live Interest," Better Fruit, August 1921, page 26
Last revised August 29, 2019