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Ongoing project

Developing smarter and sustainable pear orchards to maximise fruit quality, yield and labour efficiency (AP19005)

Key research provider: The Victorian Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions

What's it all about?

This investment is providing the pear industry with new technology and advanced management systems to maximise fruit quality, yield and labour efficiency under increasing climate variability. The goal of the project is to increase profitability of pear orchards by providing tools that allow growers to consistently produce better quality produce for domestic consumption and export markets.

Research trials are being undertaken by the project team in the experimental pear orchard at Agriculture Victoria’s Tatura SmartFarm and in commercial orchards in the Goulburn Valley. There is a focus on:

  • Demonstrating appropriate tree training methods, planting density and rootstocks for new pear cultivars
  • Investigating crop load regulation to minimise biennial bearing and maximise fruit quality and yield
  • Determining the long-term effects of planting systems, rootstocks and training systems on yield, fruit quality, nutrition, soil and pests/diseases
  • Delivering a better understanding of colour expression in bi-coloured pears and sun protection to reduce the impact of extreme heat events on colour
  • Practical use of sensing technologies to monitor fruit development that will enable growers to confidently adjust management to grow fruit to market specification.

This project is part of the PIPS3 program for the apple and pear industry (the third iteration of the Productivity, Irrigation, Pests and Soils program). The other investments that make up this scope of work are:

The work done through this project, and the PIPS3 program, will be communicated to industry extensively through the levy-funded National apple and pear industry communications program (AP18000) and Future Orchards program Delivery of apple and pear Future Orchards extension program (AP15005). You can sign up to receive industry communications at  

Data collection for the 2021/22 season was completed for the planting systems and rootstock experiments.

An experiment investigating the effect of novel netting design (alternate-side netting) on fruit colour development was established, and peel colour and blush coverage data were collected prior to harvest. Equipment used in experiments examining the effects of temperature on fruit colour was tested. An experiment was undertaken to investigate the change in colour of blush pear ‘ANP-0534’ in response to artificial heating and cooling at maturity.

Orchard scans were conducted in the planting systems and rootstock experimental blocks with Cartographer. Data from this and the previous season (2020/21) have been extracted. The accuracy, precision and reliability of Cartographer to (a) recognise and map flower clusters at and prior to full bloom, (b) recognise and map pear fruit number and estimates of fruit size and fruit peel colour, and (c) measure and map pear tree size in orchards has been determined.

Scans at a commercial orchard were conducted for two cultivars (‘ANP-0131’ and ‘PremP009’), and extracted fruit number and fruit size data were used to test crop load relationships.

Since the last update, 2020/21 season data collection was completed for the planting systems, rootstock and thinning experiments, including harvest parameters, canopy radiation interception and observations of pest and disease occurrences.

A paper and industry article were prepared (to be published) describing crop load relationships with yield and fruit size for blush pear selections. This information will help growers set appropriate crop loads to target desired fruit size.

Within the rootstock experiment, a scorecard system was used to assess differences in pest and disease susceptibility between selections and rootstocks. Clear differences in the presence of light brown apple moth and severity of mite damage were found between selections.

Cartographer orchard scans were conducted on the planting systems and rootstock experimental blocks and at one commercial orchard. Tree geometry and fruit number, fruit size and fruit colour data extraction is underway. This will be compared with plot-scale measures of radiation interception and fruit number, and direct measures of individual fruit diameter and colour. Initial calibration of flower and fruitlet numbers has been completed. Analysis of fruit size data shows a near one-to-one relationship between the Cartographer estimates and field measurements.

Various field walks to the experimental pear orchard took place, including visits by APAL, horticulture consultants, sensor companies and internal staff. The Victorian Minister for Agriculture Mary-Anne Thomas visited the Tatura SmartFarm in January 2021.


Remember to look at the various resources shared in previous project updates (below).

Initial planning of the project delivery is underway and an article introducing the project and its key objectives for industry has been published in the Australian Fruitgrower magazine and on the APAL website online.

Two videos have been produced with AP19007, the first, PIPS 3: Developing smarter and sustainable pear orchards, which introduces AP19005 and the second which presents a new mobile sensing technology for apples and pears, Green Atlas Cartographer™.


Access the article which explains the project in the in Australian Fruitgrower Magazine, Spring 2020 edition p.61, or, online on the APAL website.

Watch videos PIPS 3: Developing smarter and sustainable pear orchards which gives an introduction to project AP19005 and Green Atlas Cartographer™ which presents a new mobile sensing technology for apples and pears.