(June 30, 11:44 a.m.) An Oregon State University researcher claims that by modifying their postharvest ripening techniques, the state’s pear growers could get their fruit to market sooner and extend their season.

David Sugar, a horticulturalist at the university, said when comice and bosc pears are exposed to ethylene gas, not normally done with the two varietals, cold storage treatment could be shortened.

“Pears need to have cold storage treatment after harvest before they can ripen and in the case of comice pears, 30 days was the accepted norm,” Sugar said.

Sugar said 30 days was only necessary if the fruit was harvested at the beginning of its maturity. The number of days of cold storage decreased in a predictable fashion for each day growers delayed harvest. Moreover, the number of days continued to decrease as the temperature increased, up to a maximum of 50 degrees.

“By storing at 50 degrees for even for the earliest harvested pears, the time was reduced from 30 days to around 12,” he said.

This means far fewer days are required for the pears to go to market. If packers make these changes, consumers could have the pears by early September, rather than October.

“These research findings should allow earlier marketing of the comice crop, which means it will be available on retail shelves sooner, offering more even distribution of the crop throughout the season and better returns to growers,” said Kevin Moffitt, president and chief executive officer of the Pear Bureau Northwest.

Scott Martinez, sales manager at Associated Fruit Co., Phoenix, Ore., said the company intends to take Sugar’s advice.

“We’re excited about it,” he said. “The research is going to allow us to get the pears to the marketplace in better shape.”

Sugar also looked at how to extend the season by making the pears available longer by using LifeSpan-branded plastic bags from Amcor Flexibles, Victoria, Australia.

Perry Higgins, vice president of quality control for Harry & David, Medford, Ore., said the disadvantage of leasing an entire atmosphere-controlled room is that once the room is opened, all the fruit has to be removed.

“With a LifeSpan bag, all I’ve got is 42 pounds of fruit to worry about,” he said. “Each bag is like its own atmosphere-controlled room.”

Sugar said pears grown north of the equator could be on the market for up to six months instead of four to five. If packinghouses south of the equator do the same, pears would be available year-round.