Francis Wheatley

Francis Wheatley

East Malling Research Association’s (EMRA) concept pear orchard will produce its first harvest this year and will reach full production by 2015.

Chingford Fruit Ltd’s Francis Wheatley and Henk Neuteboom of Dutch company Verbeek Nursery reported back to delegates at the EMRA pear conference entitled ‘Pear growing for the future’ on the seven-year research project that is sponsored by both Sainsbury’s and Chingford Fruit.

The concept pear orchard is made up of four different systems - the double head system, the ‘V’ system, the run through system and the traditional system - that are already in commercial existence in the Netherlands. The orchards were planted in March last year and it is estimated that they will produce an average of 15 tonnes a hectare by 2015.

Wheatley said: “The total pear market in the UK is worth £164 million and the total conference pear market makes up £83m of that - more than half the pear market. The total worth of conference pears grown in the UK is £19.7m, which is only 12 per cent of what is sold in the UK. That leaves a gap in the market of £64m - English growers are missing an opportunity.

“UK consumers look for locally produced food and particularly apples from Kent. They consider the product better than that from Belgium or the Netherlands… The average orchard in England produces 14t/ha and the average in Europe is 60t/ha. Our purpose is to demonstrate in practice three of the most commonly used systems in Europe. Our first harvest in 2015 will bring 15t/ha alone.”