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Revival for British Conference Pears continues.

As Sainsbury’s is named for the seventh year as the leading retailer of British apples and pears, it is thanks to its lead in backing, support and investment for growers that the industry is continuing to grow. In particular, its support of British Conference Pears is helping to transform the category.

We are pleased to report that our investment in a new planting system for British Conference Pears is continuing to be successful, with yields this year, its first cropping year predicted to be around 25 tonnes per hectare, rising to 65-70 tonnes per hectare at maturity. The current UK average is 17 tonnes per hectare.

We are continuing our planting programme for new Conference Pear orchards, thanks to the support of Sainsbury’s following the successful commercial trial. This year there has been a further 70 acres of Conference Pears planted at Turkey Hall Farm, Hoo, in addition to the 80 acres which were planted at Elmstone in East Kent 20 months ago, plus smaller plantings at Shrubbery and Boughton Mount Farms.

The new orchards are being planted using a new ‘v’ growing structure together with a new shape of Conference Pear tree. These single trunk trees have four main fruiting branches. Trees are grown on a double trellis system, which increases light and air to all of the branches, so they are producing a much stronger and healthier fruit. There is also a significant reduction in russeting on the skin thanks to less branch rubbing.

The new 84,000 tree orchard at Elmstone is predicted to produce close to 60 tonnes per hectare per year in 2018 after just three years, similar to levels achieved across Europe.

The new orchards are being carefully monitored using the latest technology and good soil management. GPS linked to soil maps is ensuring each tree has a personal diet to maintain its health and crop yield.

Ross Goatham comments: “This year’s predicted Conference Pear harvest is very encouraging and we are very pleased with the continued support of Sainsbury’s in helping us to achieve this exciting turnaround for the category. They are really championing the future of British Conference Pears, as they have done with British apples over the last few years.”

“These new orchards will see meaningful cropping after just 20 months, similar to levels a traditional orchard would produce at their height, so that old adage about planting pears for heirs is no longer true. We are planting to preserve the category for future generations to enjoy. We believe this is the first significant investment in the industry for about 40 years and the support of our customers has been instrumental in our confidence and the scale of our new orchards. We anticipate this will become a template for the future of British Conference Pear orchards.”

The decline in recent years in the volume of British grown pears has been largely due to the chronic lack of investment and outdated growing methods. Many British growers were unable to compete with more successful modern production across Europe. They took orchards out of production rather than looking at what new methods were being used for pears and how they could be adapted and improved upon for the British climate.