Virginia researchers use bagging to increase pear quality & production

Chef David Upchurch served to a small group of about 30 people Tuesday a lunch featuring Asian pears raised as part of a research project to improve the particular fruit when grown in Virginia. Guests of the event heard about how the project is doing after its first year of study.

Kedong Da, a scientist at the Institute, told the group that both European and Asian pears are grown in Virginia and the project is to increase the output of Asian pears as well as improve the quality of the fruit produced.

Like most fruits, pears attract birds and bugs, so part of the project was to find ways to make the fruit unavailable to them while still on the tree — without using pesticides.

As part of the project researchers experimented with encasing the pears in bags while they are still on the tree, a method commonly used in Asian countries but rare in America.

The research team used plastic bags, white paper bags and black-lined brown bags to see if there were better results depending on the type of bag used.

Brown bags have produced the best pears, the team discovered, at least with both the trees planted at the Institute and at the two farms currently part of the project.

Agriculture is Virginia’s largest industry, with an economic impact of $52 billion annually and employing about 311,000 people, said Melissa Ball, special projects manager with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Pear trees are generally prone to an array of diseases they must be treated for, Ball noted, but the bags protect the fruit from being sprayed directly, and, overall the trees are producing more pears while using less irrigation, pesticides and fertilisers.

The bags are placed on the fruit as they begin to grow in May and remain until harvest. Da said an average grower can bag about 2,500 pears per day.

The Institute was awarded a $25,771 grant last year, paid out over two years, from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services special crop grants program.

For more information:
Kedong Da
Tel: +1 434 766 6621

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