There are two types of pears: The European or French pears (Pyrus communis) including varieties such as, Bartlett, Bosc and D’Anjou, and Asian pears (Pyrus pyrifolia) with varieties such as, Hosui and Nijisseiki. Asian pears are also known as “apple-pears” because of their apple-like texture (University of Kentucky - Cooperative Extension, 2014)(Pennsylvania State University - Extension, 2015
U.S. per capita consumption of fresh pears was 3.22.8 pounds in 201309. Per capita consumption of all pear products was about 6.27 pounds in 201310 (ERS, 2014).
The marketing season for pears differs among the states they’re produced in and their varieties. For California, Oregon and Washington, the marketing season for Bartlett pears is from July to December. For other pears it is from July to June. In all other states the marketing season is from August to November (NASS, 2015).
Pear has a very sweet flavor, but is not overbearing, making it a great fruit to incorporate into processed foods such as, canned pears, baby food, glazes, vinaigrettes, and fruit bars. A way to add value to fresh pears could be starting a U-pick operation. Many consumers are concerned about where their produce comes from; therefore U-pick operations have the ability to make consumers feel more secure and connected to their food. Some very important factors to consider regarding U-pick operations are making sure the site is convenient and appealing to customers. Often U-pick operations will supply a farm stand with already picked product for people who do not have the time, ability or want to pick their own product (University of Tennessee – Extension, 2014).
Tapping into niche markets is another way value can be added to a product. In recent years apple ciders and alcoholic pear beverages (known as perry), have become more popular (Michigan State University - Extension, 2013).
There are six main states in the U.S. that produce pears: California, Michigan, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington. Of these states, California, Oregon and Washington make up the majority of production.
In 2014, Washington led the United States in pear production with 832 million pounds valued at $233.8 million. Oregon produced 432 million pounds valued at $127.4 million, and California
Produced 378 million pounds valued at $88.6 million. From these three states 776 million pounds were Bartlett pears valued at $180.7 million (NASS, 2015).
During the 2013/ 2014 market year, the United States exported 449 million pounds of fresh pears valued at nearly $223.7 million, and exported 13.7 million pounds of prepared/preserved pears valued at $7.4 million. The largest market for fresh pears was Mexico, followed by Canada and Russia. The largest market for prepared/preserved pears was Canada followed by Mexico and the United Arab Emirates (ERS, 2015).
The United States imported 180.7 million pounds of fresh pears in the 2013/2014 market year, valued at more than $188.9 million. The top three countries for fresh imported pears are Argentina, South Korea, and Chile (ERS, 2015).
Pear trees are highly susceptible to a bacterial disease called Fire blight, caused by the bacterium Erwinia amylovora. There are some slightly tolerant varieties available. Fire blight is most likely to occur when temperatures of 75° to 85°F are followed by sporadic rain, however, proper management can lessen the disease from occurring. The tissue of fast growing trees is very sensitive, and thus activities such as heavy fertilization and excessive pruning should be avoided due to it promoting quicker growth. Irrigation during flower bloom should also be avoided, and monitoring and removal of fire blight infected areas should be done with diligence (UC IPM, 2011).
Profitable pear systems
The majority of Australian pears are grown in Victoria with a farm gate value of $85 million. Pear production however has decreased by 30 per cent in the past 10 to 15 years. Decline in pear production and little re-planting has been driven by the loss in domestic and international markets for the traditional pear varieties grown in Australia.
The Australian National Pear Breeding Program (ANPBP) based in Tatura and conducted by the Biosciences Research Division has developed new varieties with the potential to recapture the fresh pear market. Most pears are grown using traditional methods where maximum production may take 10 years from planting and yields can be highly variable from year-to-year and from tree-to-tree. Modern orchard production systems for fresh pears requires investigation to achieve maximum yield and fruit quality.