Apple and Pear Breeding

January 9, 2010

Both apple and pear trees are made from grafting one kind of tree, called the scion, to a rootstock which will determine the size of the tree. This is because most apples and all pears are not self-fertile when they bloom. It takes another breed of apple to pollinate an apple, and it takes another breed of pear to pollinate a pear. If pollination does not occur, no fruit will grow.

Because of this cross-pollination, the seeds in the fruit contain the genetic make-up of two different breeds of trees, so the seed will not grow and be the same breed of tree that the fruit came off of, but a new breed. And just like how sibling animals are not exact genetic clones of each other, neither are two seeds from the same apple or pear. Worse yet, I’ve heard that about only 1 in 300 seeds grow up to be an edible fruit tree. Why, I was reading on Home Orchard Society’s forum about someone planting a cherry pit, and 10 years later, the tree has not produced fruit. They did not beat the odds. Makes you wonder how Johnny Appleseed managed to plant all those seeds, but he did.

Since there are fewer pear varieties than apples, the focus is usually on planting the big four – Bartlett (AKA Williams in Europe), Anjou, Comice, and Bosc. Do to their blooming periods, Bartlett and Anjou are planted together, and Comice and Bosc are planted together. Bosc blooms late in the season, and therefore cannot be pollinated by the early blooming Bartlett and Anjou.


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