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Breeding Program – Pear Rootstocks

Over the last few decades in the U.S., utilization of size controlling or dwarfing, stress tolerant and precocity-inducing rootstocks has stimulated the modernization and industrialization of the orchard systems in the U.S., resulting in steady growth and profitability of various fruit commodity industries. Such rootstocks have been extensively utilized in apple, sweet cherry, peach and several other perennial specialty crops.

In contrast to several other fruit crops, the U.S. pear industry lacks appropriate rootstocks on which to establish modern high-density orchards. Without appropriate rootstocks, there is a reluctance to plant new high-quality scion cultivars that can enhance consumer satisfaction and increase the profitability of the pear industry. The adoption of several other orchard innovations rests on the availability of rootstocks, for example improved production efficiency, worker safety and reduced pesticide inputs. In many international pear producing regions, production systems for pear mirror those of apple as they rely on dwarfing quince rootstock. In the PNW, growers have been reluctant to transition to current commercially available quince rootstocks since they lack cold hardiness.

A recent collaborative effort by the U.S. pear industry and research community has resulted in the development of a roadmap to focus attention on urgent needs. The long-term goal is to revive and modernize the U.S. pear industry and to increase its sustainability by enhancing orchard efficiency. Progress towards this goal was started recently by the establishment of the Pear Genomics Research Network (PGRN) which brings together researchers and industry representatives of the major pear producing areas in the U.S., namely Washington, Oregon and California.

The aim of these efforts is to build on recent (and concurrent) research to develop a long-term dedicated pear rootstock breeding program at the Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee, WA.

A fruiting wall of Bartlett pears. This system lends itself to mechanization. Credit: Geraldine Warner, Good Fruit Grower

Breeding Targets:

  • Size controlling (denser plantings)
  • Precocity (new trees producing sooner)
  • Good quality (including fruit size and finish)
  • Disease resistance (fire bight and pear decline)
  • Ease of propagation
  • Winter hardiness



Washington State University