This season's harvest from East Malling's Concept Pear Orchard appears to confirm the greatly superior yields achievable from novel Dutch-style growing formats.
The Kent trial site, the result of a collaboration between East Malling Limited, Sainsbury's and Chingford Fruit, grows Conference pears using four different systems, employing a range of spacing, training and fertigation.
These have given a range of yields this year, all well ahead of the national average of 14 tonnes per hectare, specifically:
- V-system: 54.4 t/ha
- Double-head system: 51.2 t/ha
- Run-through system: 46.4 t/ha
- Conventional English system: 38.4 t/ha
East Malling commercial farm manager Graham Caspell said: "The season started poorly, so we’ve been very pleasantly surprised by the orchard’s results."
He added: "The results reinforce the already strong case for investing in intensive pear production and adopting these growing techniques."
Chingford Fruit technical manager Francis Wheatley said: "Not only is the orchard significantly ahead of the industry standard in terms of the volume of the crop, it is successfully producing a commercial crop several years before a traditionally planted Conference pear orchard."
The orchard was only planted in 2008-09, but by 2011 was yielding 22 t/ha, in sharp contrast to the 10-plus years needed for a conventional orchard to reach commercial yields.