Stephen Van Meekeren and his brother, Michael, are swimming against the current. As other orchard operators have been taking out their pear blocks, Van Meekeren Farms Ltd., located near Lakeville, N.S., in the Annapolis Valley, has been putting in new pear plantings.
Stephen Van Meekeren and his brother, Michael, are swimming against the current.
As other orchard operators have been taking out their pear blocks, Van Meekeren Farms Ltd., located near Lakeville, N.S., in the Annapolis Valley, has been putting in new pear plantings.
“We have a small, fresh market,” explains Stephen, adding new pear plantings have been added on the farm in 2008, 2009 and again in 2010.
Now, when many of the pear plantings in Nova Scotia are at an age when they should be replaced, the Van Meekeren’s have new blocks of Bosc, Bartlett and Clapp’s Favorite on Old Home Farmingdale 97 rootstock.
“We are not replanting a huge acreage but enough to fill our fresh market,” says Stephen. “And we could build on it and lengthen our market season.”
Most of the pear production in Nova Scotia has been removed during the past few years, prompted by the recent closing of the local processor, Avon, and by the shutdown of Ontario’s pear processor, where some Nova Scotia growers were shipping.
To date, the Van Meekeren brothers have replaced 10 acres of pears with new plantings. Their replanting effort, however, hit a big pothole this season with the loss of 75 per cent of the trees they planted.
After planting about four acres this past spring, leaves on many of the trees began to turn black. The Van Meekerens applied insecticide sprays, believing the damage was being caused by aphids or two-spotted spider mites. They later discovered the trees had been badly damaged after a freeze the previous fall at the nursery where they were purchased.
The Washington State nursery has agreed to replace the trees without charge, although the brothers will have to bear the expense of replanting.
The Van Meekerens utilize a somewhat unique trellising system on their pear plantings.
“It is similar to V-trellis but we are trying to keep the trees more compact and the alleyways more open,” explains Stephen. “I saw it in Australia, near Melbourne, on an IFTA (International Fruit Tree Association) tour. That is where I got the idea. They did it as a V-trellis but I decided to do it in row.”
The Van Meekerens suspension system is conduit inclined 15 degrees from the vertical. Stephen feels inclining the newly planted trees will encourage leaf set and he hopes to get his 2009 pear planting into production in 2011.
“Pear trees are slow to bear fruit usually,” says Stephen, adding the farm operation is turning to trellising to try to get their pears into production sooner. “We are also tying limbs down to promote earlier production and less tree growth.”
He believes these tree management techniques will save money on orchard management and pruning, while promoting an earlier return on investment.
“Because there are no dwarfing rootstocks available for pears that are winter hardy; we are trying to get them to produce earlier like the dwarfing rootstocks in apples,” Stephen says.
As for their apple trees, the Van Meekerens planted a block of Ambrosia in 2009. They also recently planted Fuji and Gala, plus they have blocks of Honeycrisp, Royal Cortland and MacIntosh grafted over from Spartan. ❦
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