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Completed project

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

Key research provider: The Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action
Publication date: Tuesday, September 19, 2023

What was it all about?

From 2020 to 2023, this investment provided the pear industry with new technology and advanced management systems to maximise fruit quality, yield and labour efficiency under increasing climate variability.

The project contributed to a decade of work led by growers in the Australian pear industry that have adopted modern tree training systems in higher density plantings, investing in new, predominantly blush or red, pear selections to improve domestic and export markets. The project:

  • Supported the optimum production of quality fruit that meets market expectations for fruit size and colour through the continuation of planting systems and rootstock experiments.
  • Examined crop load relationships and established new experiments investigating implications for fruit colour of heat and novel netting designs.
  • Developed new technologies to support both premium production and labour efficiency were investigated in crop regulation experiments and tested the reliability of a mobile sensing platform.

Results from this program showed:

  • Semi-dwarfing rootstocks like Quince A and C are preferred mainly due to consistency in yield and better fruit colour.
  • Trees planted at high density produced more fruit and higher yields in young trees, but care needs to be taken to avoid biennial bearing.
  • The best cumulative yield was on trees with Quince A rootstock, trained to Open Tatura trellis irrespective of tree density.
  • The 2D Open Tatura trellis and vertical leader systems are preferred over traditional 3D central leader and spindle training systems because fruit had better colour.
  • Thinning to one to two per cluster increased fruit red colour and the removal of flowering buds by artificial spur extinction early in the season lead to increased fruit size with only a marginal impact on yield.
  • Red colour expression in blush pears is determined by exposure to sunlight but can be halted by heat.
  • Pre-harvest spatial measures of pear orchard productivity are now available to fruit growers and scientists through ground-based mobile sensing technologies.

Communication to industry occurred via magazine articles, participation in orchard walks, presentations at industry forums, regional roadshow, engagement with a project reference group and service providers, and websites, such as Apple and Pear Australia Limited’s PIPS3 website which can be accessed here.

Communication to scientific peers occurred via six peer-reviewed papers and presentations at scientific conferences. Increased program efficiency was achieved by allocating additional resources and providing staffing support to various PIPS3 projects. Opportunities were also seized to establish connections between different projects, service providers, and the science community throughout the duration of the project.

This project was 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 made up this scope of work are: