Asian Pear

1. Q. I have been seeing Asian pears or apple-pears being sold in local supermarkets. Can this fruit be grown here and if so what are the best varieties?

A. The Asian pear has been on trial in Texas for several years now and the potential, especially in Central, West and North Texas, looks good. If you do not know what an Asian pear is, look in the fresh produce section of the larger supermarkets.

These pears are considerably different from the old hard home-grown varieties like Keiffer and Orient. Asian pears have a distinct, but pear-like taste and they have a crisp texture, much like a good apple. Many Asian pear varieties also have an apple- like shape and this combination of taste, texture and shape causes many people to refer to them as "apple-pears." They are also sometimes called salad pears or sand pears.

The biggest question mark over the adaptation of Asian pears in Texas has been fireblight. Fireblight is a common bacterial disease that attacks pears and apples and can kill blooms, young tender shoots and sometimes major limbs and whole trees.

Asian pears are reported to have fair to good tolerance to fireblight, depending on the variety. The southern limit of their adaptation is not clearly defined. Japanese varieties may have problems with insufficient winter chill if planted south of a line extending roughly from Laredo to Corpus Christi.

Many varieties are being tried, but to date, the following are the best in overall grower and consumer preferences. They are:

  • SHINSEIKI--a Japanese clear-skinned yellow type with medium size good to excellent flavored fruit that ripens early (early to mid July in Central Texas).
  • 20TH CENTURY (NIJISSEIKI)--a Japanese clear-skinned type that is the most popular variety worldwide. It has very good, medium to large fruit that ripens in early August in Central Texas. One of the most susceptible to fireblight.

    Plant at least two Asian pear varieties to assure cross pollination and good fruit set. Do not rely on common pear varieties to pollinate your Asian pears.

  • HOSUI--a Japanese, brown russetted, large, excellent quality fruit. Many prefer the taste of this particular variety.
  • SHINKO--a Japanese, brown russetted fruit with very good fireblight tolerance.

2. Q: I have been looking for infornation on the Asian Pear Tree. We planted one three years ago and this is the first year it has had fruit on it. There isn't any more asian pear trees in the area. This last spring we collected some regular pear blossoms, several miles from our place, and shook them over the blossoms and we have 9 pears on the tree. Does the Asian pear require two or more trees to bear fruit? What is the best fertilizer to use on the Asian pear trees?

A: It is a good idea to have two pear trees to insure good cross pollinatin and fruit set. The Shinseiki Asian pear variety tends to be self-fruitful, but it still benefits from cross pollination. Often times though, folks don't have room for another tree. In such cases there are two ways to solve the problem; the first is similar to the method you used--however, it is best to take branches with blossoms and place them in a can of water and hang them in your tree. You also want to make sure that it is a different variety. The bees will need a few days to do their job so it may be necessary to replace them. The second would be to bud a different variety into your existing tree; in this way the pollen source will be located in your tree. Pears are very easy to bud using the simple "t" bud.

If your soil is highly alkaline, ie. the pH is above 7.5, use only nitrogen fertilizer such as 21-0-0 or ammonium sulfate. Use one pound per inch of trunk diameter. Do not over fertilize as over-vigorous shoots are susceptible to fireblight. If your soil is below 7.5, then use a 3-1-2 ratio fertilizer, such as 15-5-10. Again, use one pound per inch of trunk diameter.

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