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PNW Pear Industry Input Sought Regarding Potential Initiation of New Breeding Program

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The research subcommittee of the Fresh and Processed Pear Committees (FPC/PPC) is seeking feedback from pear industry stakeholders regarding the opportunity to support a new pear scion breeding program. The proposed program would focus on developing new varieties designed specifically for Pacific Northwest conditions and potentially introduce cultivars that are better adapted to heat stress, more resistant to disease and insect pressure, and that feature improved storability and ripening traits that could ultimately deliver a superior eating experience to the consumer. It would be led by Kate Evans (WSU-Wenatchee) who led a pear breeding program for 16 years at East Malling, England and currently manages the Washington Apple Breeding Program, as well as a relatively new program to breed pear rootstocks.

Breeding of tree fruits is a slow process, and especially so with pear because it takes several years to produce flowers and fruit.  Estimates are that the first new commercial cultivars might be released 20 years after the initiation of the breeding program; at an estimated annual cost of $200,000, this initiative would require an investment from the pear industry of at least $4M before income generated by the first commercial releases might return enough revenue to fund the breeding program and make it financially self-sustaining.

The Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission (WTFRC) currently holds approximately $650,000 in reserve funds that were collected from Washington pear growers prior to the suspension of their collection of pear assessments in 2005.  The WTFRC board is currently offering those funds to cover the costs of the first 3 years of this proposed program provided that the PNW pear industry commits to supporting it for the following 17 years (roughly 2025-2041).  That financial support would flow through the research budget of the FPC/PPC, essentially meaning that the pear growers of Oregon and Washington would cover those costs through their research assessments.

The pear research subcommittee will be meeting at the annual PNW Pear Research Review on Feb. 20-21 in Yakima (visit www.treefruitresearch.com for more information) to review ongoing research projects and consider new proposals.  At that meeting, they will discuss the prospects for long-term support of the proposed pear breeding program and the financial implications for the overall research program of the FPC/PPC.  To aid and inform those discussions, the pear research subcommittee is hoping to get as much feedback from industry as possible. Feedback will be collected up to the date of the Pear Review.

All WA and OR pear producers are encouraged to provide input; they may utilize either of the following tools to do so:

  1. Any questions or comments may be sent to pnwpearbreeding@gmail.com.  This email account will be checked regularly; we hope to reply to any specific questions in a timely manner.
  2. Pear producers are encouraged to take a simple 5-10 minute online survey to express their thoughts regarding potential support for a scion breeding program.  This survey may be accessed at:  https://forms.gle/GBtwAzK6wLayKkfA7.

Of course, any direct oral or written feedback to individual research subcommittee members is also welcome.  Thanks for your consideration and input in this important matter.


Contact

TSchmidtTory Schmidt
Horticultural Associate
WTFRC, Wenatchee
509-665-8271
tory@treefruitresearch.com

Washington State University