Central Lakes College received a $14,000 Minnesota Sustainable Agricultural Grant to further its efforts of growing hardy pears in Minnesota faster.
Dr. Thaddeus McCamant, CLC’s Specialty Crops instructor, said Minnesota-grown pears like Luscious, Summercrisp and Gourmet, taste quite good. The problem is that the trees take about six years to come into production, and the trees are too tall for easy picking.
“We are hoping to both decrease tree height and get fruit production the third year after planting by grafting Minnesota hardy varieties onto Juneberry trees,” McCamant said. “The roots will be Juneberries while the top will be a pear tree. In preliminary trials on the West Coast, Juneberries have worked very well as roots for pears, and they should work better here because Juneberries are native and very hardy.”
McCamant added, “If this works, pears will become another commercially viable option for fruit growers, along with established crops like apples.”
Work has already begun for the project, with one grower starting grafting three weeks ago. This fall, pear trees will be planted in orchards at the Ag and Energy Center in Staples, as well as Hutchinson and Taylors Falls.
“Over the next few years, we will be able to see if these new pear/Juneberry trees produce earlier and better than regular pear trees,” McCamant said.