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Asian pears are considerably different from the old hard home-grown varieties like 'Keiffer' and 'Orient'. Asian pears have a distinct, but pear-like taste and they have a crisp texture, much like a good apple. Many Asian pear varieties also have an apple-like shape of the fruit and this combination of taste, texture and shape causes many people to refer to them as "apple-pears." They are also sometimes called salad pears or sand pears.
Figure 1. Early blooming Asian pear 'Ya Li' open flowers at the Chilton REC, Clanton, March 2, 2018.
The most considerable issue over the adaptation of Asian pears in Alabama and the Southeast has been a common bacterial disease – fire blight (Erwinia amylovora) that attacks pears and apples and can kill blooms, young tender shoots and sometimes major limbs and even the whole tree.
Some Asian pear cultivars are reported to have fair to good tolerance to fire blight, and are quite precocious and productive. Nine fire blight tolerant Asian pear cultivars namely 'Hosui', 'Ishiiwase', 'Kosui', 'Olympic', 'Shinko', 'Ya Li', 'Yoinashi', 'Korean Giant', 'Shinsui', and the European pear cultivar 'Golden Russett', planted at the Chilton Research and Extension Center near Clanton are being evaluated for their overall performance and adaptation to Alabama conditions.
After the cold spell in early- to mid-March, we conducted a study to determine the cultivar flower bud survivability. Our results suggest that the early blooming 'Ya Li' (Figure 1) sustained the most significant damage with 78% flowers killed by the cold temperature (Figure 2 and 3). 'Olympic' and 'Yonashi' also had high percent (64.7 and 49.7% respectively) damaged flowers, while 'Ishiiwase' and 'Kosui' resulted in 91.2 and 80.6% survival rate.
Figure 2. Percent survivability of selected Asian pear cultivars grown at the Chilton REC, Clanton, March, 2018.
Figure 3. Cold damage on 'Ya Li' flowers, March 19, 2018.
Elina Coneva, Extension Fruit Crops Specialist, ACES
Enfeng Xu, Graduate Research Assistant
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