Tips on growing pears and its attractive health benefits

Pears on sale at a stall in Kakamega County. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

Pears are a mild, sweet fruit with a fibrous centre. They are rich in antioxidants and dietary fibre, cholesterol and calories. They are delicious fruits that can be grown in a wide range of soils especially cold areas.

For a long time, Mary Kimani from Limuru, Kiambu County has been tending pear trees on her family land. Currently, the farm has more than 150 trees. The produce is one of their source of livelihoods. Ms Kimani shares insights on how to grow it.

Ecological requirements

The pear tree can do well in different soil types and conditions. One can easily modify soil fertility to attain optimum conditions. Pears are reasonably tolerant to drought and wet soils but cannot withstand flooding which can injure the root system. Good drainage and soil depth will greatly determine if your fruit tree will develop well. A soil pH of about 6.0 to 7.0 is ideal, due to the fact that the pear tree can tolerate slightly acidic soil. Any fertiliser application programme should be done based on soil and leaf analysis.

Propagation and planting

Pears belong to the genus pyrus. The cultivars are not true to type when grown from seed, hence the need for vegetative propagation, most common methods being budding and grafting.

“Pears can be grown in temperate zones, subtropics and even in the tropics; it all depends on the type of cultivar used and its adaptability. Pears do require adequate chilling effect for successful fruit bud development,”says Kimani.

A spacing of five by six metres, 4 by 6metres or 8 by 4metres is ideal. Upon land preparation, planting holes with a diameter of 60cm by 60cm and two feet deep should be made. The topsoil should be mixed with well-decomposed manure to enhance soil fertility and aeration.

“An acre can accommodate between 120 to 200 trees,” she says.

Thinning is desirable if the cultivar used is a heavy producer. Removing the excess fruit will allow the rest to develop into a good marketable size.

Weeding

Pear orchards should be free of weeds. Mulching and planting cover crops are recommended to minimise the growth of weeds.

Pest and diseases

For good fruit quality, preventative control of pests and diseases is required. The common diseases and pests include; scab, rust, black spot, fire blight, root rot, powdery mildew, fruit flies, aphids and red spider mites. Diseases include powdery mildew, collar rot, crown and root rot and fire blight.

“If the diseases are not controlled, the infected trees become weak and unproductive. It is advisable to contact your extension officer for proper diagnosis and recommendations,” says Kimani.

 Maturity and harvesting

Pears take three to five years for the tree to start fruiting. However, grafted varieties can start bearing two years after planting. The fruits should be hand-picked to avoid any damage.

Output

The average yield for a mature tree varies depending on the ecological conditions and its management. A mature tree can produce up to 180 kilograms of fruit. Kimani sells a kilo of pears at Sh30.

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