Geneticists at Washington State University in Pullman are trying to transform the Bartlett pear from a quick-to-ripen fruit to one that will hold up through shipping long enough to make it onto a store shelf without turning mushy.

They're also trying to speed development of potential candidates so they can make it to new grower plantings faster.

Two of the most popular and prevalent pears grown in the Pacific Northwest are the Bartlett and D'Anjou. While the D'Anjou actually needs near-freezing temperatures to start ripening, the Bartlett ripens very fast and all at once.

The researchers believe they've identified the gene in the D'Anjou that's responsible for the slower ripening.

Discovery of the ripening gene is important because targeted mutation to help curtail the impulsive Bartletts' ripening regime—and perhaps coax a bit more flavor from the reserved D'Anjou—is much more precise and quick than traditional hybridizing/breeding techniques.

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