National pear breeding (AP99007)
This is a final research report from Hort Innovation’s historical archives. Please note that as these reports may date back as far as the 1990s, the content and recommendations within them may be superseded by more recent research.
What was it all about?
The National Pear Breeding Program commenced in 1992, and was managed by DPI-Victoria through its Knoxfield and Tatura sites, in collaboration with Hort Innovation (which was then Horticulture Australia Limited), Apple and Pear Australia Limited (APAL), the Australian Nashi Growers Association and the Western Australian Department of Agriculture. Three years before this report was published the program reached a population of over 52,000 seedling trees. These had been culled to 37,000 trees, each of which was a unique individual seedling. The second phase of crossing had now commenced, using elite selections from the program as parents.
The breeding team described their aim as “perfect pears”, which would delight consumers. The first point of selection was therefore appearance. Only fruit with a smooth classical pear-shaped outline, smooth glossy skin, attractive colour, and absence of blemishes including russet, were acceptable. Several of the leading selections had an attractive red blush over a yellow background. Taste and texture had to be equal or better than the leading commercial varieties for a seedling fruit to proceed to the second stage of selection, which involved growing the selections as orchard trees. Orchard trees were produced on several rootstocks, and managed on Open Tatura trellis, the industry benchmark at the time for good management practice. The program at the time had over 80 selections managed as orchard trees. Most were less than two years old.
The second phase of the selection process was conducted by the pear industry through its variety improvement program, the Australian Pome Fruit Improvement Program, which was managed by APAL on behalf of fruit growers. DPI-Victoria contracted APAL to conduct a multi-stage selection process on growers’ properties, so that elite pear selections were subject to the same conditions as the growers’ orchards. Seven pear selections were supplied to APAL in 2003, at the same time that they were established in an orchard at DPI-Tatura. This “ fast tracking” trial allowed APAL and DPI-Victoria to test and fine-tune the commercial assessment process.
The ultimate aim of the program was to assist Australian pear growers to recapture export markets lost to countries with cheap labour, and to build a stronger domestic market through greater consumer satisfaction and orchard productivity.
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This project was funded by Hort Innovation (then Horticulture Australia Limited) with the voluntary financial support of the apple and pear industry and the nashi industry.
Copyright © Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited 2005. The Final Research Report (in part or as whole) cannot be reproduced, published, communicated or adapted without the prior written consent of Hort Innovation (except as may be permitted under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth)).