OrchardWorld plans to trial four varieties of pear new to Britain

Top fruit marketer OrchardWorld has planted a new concept orchard to trial four new pear varieties in the UK.

The ultimate aim of the concept orchard is to increase yields - making production more profitable for the grower.

Technical director Mike Jobbins said: "The pear market has lacked innovation over the past decade. OrchardWorld is hoping to reinvigorate the category with better-tasting fruit for the consumer, together with increased yields that will make production profitable for their growers. We are very keen to reinvigorate the category and offer some genuine innovation to help grow the sales of British pears."

The trees in the new orchard have been planted one metre apart, resulting in a greater output per hectare than typical in the UK.

The orchard has been planted at Rankins Farm in Maidstone, Kent, where grower Tony Sunnucks produces apples, pears, rhubarb and raspberries. The farm is already home to Sainsbury's Concept Apple Orchard, which was planted in 2006 and yields of which are already double those typically seen in UK apple orchards.

In 2009, 40 tonnes of apples per hectare were harvested from the concept orchard, compared to typical yields of around 20 tonnes under normal systems. It is hoped that around 50 tonnes of apples per hectare will be produced next year.

The Concept Pear Orchard is trialling four new varieties that have not been grown in the UK before - Delsanne, Gourmande, Verdi and Elliott. They have been selected to give the UK consumer a home-grown pear that offers an improved eating experience. Sunnucks is managing the orchard - working closely with Dutch agronomist, Fruit Consult.

A representative for OrchardWorld, which is based in Colchester, Essex, said: "We hope to harvest a small volume of fruit in 2011, with the expectation that we will see yields steadily increase over the next five years to 60 tonnes per hectare."

The project has been fully funded by OrchardWorld with an investment of around £25k. As with the existing Concept Apple Orchards, OrchardWorld will use the Concept Pear Orchard to communicate best practice to its producer base via the Focus Grower group.

Since 2006 OrchardWorld English growers have planted 180ha of new orchards using the intensive husbandry methods of the original concept orchard.

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