I have always liked the fresh taste and juiciness of Nashi Pears. I was inspired to see how well this fruit grows in our subtropical climate when visiting Ray and Phyl Garwood’s property at Narangba (featured in previous newsletter). They had a beautiful Nashi pear tree, laden with sweet fruit that appeared to have little pest problems.
Clearly this fruit is well suited to South East Queensland. One of the reasons for this suitability appears to be its low chilling requirements (although they are also hardy to cold). Nashi pears have a lower chilling requirement than ordinary pears, but otherwise are grown in much the same way. There are some very low chill varieties, Shinseiki and China Pear being two of them.
The three strains of Nashi (Pyrus pyrifolia, P. bretschneideri and P. ussuriensis) are quite a different fruit to the common, European pear (Pyrus communi), and the two types do not cross-pollinate. It is sometimes called the Asian Pear, and originated in eastern Asia, China, Japan and Korea. It is generally sweeter than ordinary pears, and has better keeping qualities, more like apples. Some varieties are excellent crisp fruit to eat out of hand, while others are better used as a cooking fruit. Unlike ordinary pears, they do not go soft when ripe, and therefore have to be picked ripe, rather than letting them ripen off the tree. They store very well in a cold room – for up to 3 months.
Nashi pears are available bare-rooted or in bags, and are best planted when dormant - say July and August in South East Queensland. Most cultivars are partially self-pollinating, but better crops will set where two or more types are planted together. The cultivars will mostly cross-pollinate each other, if the flowering time is the same. If you want to try grafting them, note that the different cultivars can be grafted onto each other. Also, all Asian pear cultivars will grow on rootstocks of P. communis (European pear) but will be dwarfed by about 50% (Beutel 1990).
They often set large crops, so it is usually necessary to thin some of the smaller fruit to help prevent limbs breaking. This also helps ensure that the remaining fruit is of good size and quality. Try to thin fruit so as to leave no more than one fruit per spur. Trellising of branches may also help to prevent branches breaking under the weight of fruit.
Like ordinary pears, proper pruning is important for good fruit quality and size in Nashi Pears, starting with the principle that all fruit are borne on spurs of 2 - 6 year-old wood. The young trees should be pruned to space out the limbs and develop a strong vase-shaped framework. To encourage the formation of fruiting spurs cut the young tree at about 80cm high at time of planting, and select 3 or 4 main limbs the first year, cutting these new limbs back by about half (in the dormant season), leaving 30 – 60cm of growth. This should result in about 6 low secondary limbs – these are then cut back to about 80cm – 100cm in the second dormant season. When fruit production starts (usually the third season), the limbs should be allowed to grow a further 50cm per year and then they cut back again in the dormant season.
In general, your pruning technique should encourage several limbs with wide angled branches off the main limbs. All limbs, which go straight up, and root suckers, should be removed, and mature trees should be lightly pruned annually to remove dead and damaged wood, as well to control growth and remove excessive to let in sunlight. Further detail on pruning can be found on the “Newcrops” Website at www.hort.purdue/newcrops/indices.
The reason for this careful pruning is that the spurs off the older wood give smaller fruit than the fruit that sets on 2 - to 4 year-old wood. According to Beutel (1990) the best fruit size is obtained on 1 – 3 year-old spurs on wood that is 2.5cm – 5cm in diameter.
The only major pest of Nashi Pear in most areas of Australia is the pear and cherry slug. The larvae of this type of sawfly feed on the surface of the leaves, until there are only veins remaining. It may help to hose the larvae off leaves, or alternatively use a caterpillar biocide such as Dipel. Other pests and diseases to which Nashi Pear is susceptible are pear blast, which can cause dieback, codling moth, and mites. Codling moth can be treated organically by wrapping corrugated cardboard around the trunks in autumn, and then removing these in late spring and burning them (the larvae next in the cardboard). Spraying for mites spray before harvest, as well as frequent irrigation will control two-spot and European red mites (Beutel 1990)
There are now many varieties of Nashi available in Australia. There are early, mid-season and late ones, which means that fruit can mature from late January to mid April. As Beutel (1990) reports, there are 3 types of Asian pears:
If you want to have a mixture of fruit maturity times in your orchard, try Shinsui (early), Nijisseiki (mid-season) and Shinsatsu (late). Good selections were introduced into Australian in the 1980’s and 90’s, and are grown in many areas including Stanthorpe, Northern NSW, and around Orange in the Riverland. The fruit is very popular in Japan (the word “Nashi” means pear in Japanese), and Louis Glowinski (1991) reports that in New Zealand, there has been a major effort to develop superior selections that can compete on the Japanese market, because they ripen in a different season to the northern hemisphere.
An agricultural fact sheet written by Campbell (2002) lists some of the varieties available in Australia, as follows:
I think a couple of Nashi Pears should be in everyone’s home orchard in South East Queensland, due to their low chill requirements, ease of growing, and sweet, thirst-quenching fruit that can be used fresh or for cooking.
Beutel, J.A. 1990. Asian Pears. p. 304-309. In: J. Janick and J.E. Simon (eds.), Advances in new crops. Timber Press, Portland, OR.
Glowinski, L. 1991. The Complete Book of Fruit Growing in Australia., Lothian Books
Agfact H4.1.14, Nashi Varieties, First Edition, March 2002. Dr Jill Campbell. Orange Agricultural Institute, ORANGE, N.S.W 2800. Job 306)