By: Amy Grant
A perfectly ripe pear is ambrosial, sublime in its aroma, texture and flavor. But pears, as with other fruit, aren’t always perfect in appearance. A fairly common problem with pears is split pear fruit. Read on to find out what causes pears to split and if there is a remedy when pears are splitting.
Why Do Pears Split?
Cracking of pear fruit arise from one factor – water. Simply put, a lack of water followed by a surplus of water is what causes pears to split. The same goes for nearly any other fruit cracking.
Split pear fruit is a condition that is caused by an irregular supply of water. While the splits are not usually deep, they may be enough to invite disease or pests to attack otherwise tasty fruit. Sometimes, the fruit will “heal” itself by scabbing over the split areas. The fruit may not look very pretty but will still be edible.
A dry period followed by heavy rains causes the fruit to swell too quickly. The plant’s cells swell rapidly, and the accelerated growth can’t be contained and results in pears that are splitting. This can also happen if the weather has been wet throughout the growth season. Stretches of wet, cool, humid weather make pears more prone to splitting.
How to Keep Pears from Splitting
While you can’t control Mother Nature, you can improve your chances of avoiding split fruit. First off, during hot, dry periods, keep the tree watered on a regular basis. In the event of a sudden rain, the tree will be more likely to absorb what water it needs and not become shocked into uptaking copious quantities that it can’t handle.
The best remedy is a long term solution. It starts when you first plant your pear trees. At planting, incorporate plenty of well-rotted organic matter into the soil. This will help the soil retain moisture that, in turn, increases its capacity to release water to the roots during dry spells.
If you did not amend the soil at planting time, apply a 2-inch layer of grass clippings in the spring when the soil is still wet. This will help retain moisture and will eventually break down to improve the soil.
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Read more about Pear Trees
Growing Pears: The Complete Guide to Plant, Care, and Harvest PearsSteph Coelho
Steph is a certified Square Food Gardening Instructor who has been gardening for more than 10 years in Canada where the winters are long and cold, and the summers are unpredictable. She is a volunteer for her community's Incredible Edible project. In the past she created an educational gardening space for seniors and taught classes at a local community center where she created her own curriculum and activities. She participated in several local municipal garden days where she set up a booth to educate citizens about the joy of gardening.
There’s just something about fruit trees that seems almost otherworldly. The fruit I buy at the grocery store never looks as delicious as the bright red apple I pick from the local fruit orchard. The experience of eating freshly picked pears is the same. They rarely taste as good when store-bought, but off the tree? The flavor is incredible.
I can make the comparison with certainty because my grandfather has a pear tree in his backyard and it’s been around for as long as I can remember. He’s incredibly proud of that tree.
While he always seems to be waging war with hungry sweet-toothed squirrels, the tree has remained a fixture in the yard for years and continues to bear tasty fruit. I don’t believe there’s another fruit tree nearby, so the variety must be self-pollinating, which is lucky since few pear tree varieties are. The tree is large but manages to fit in fine in the compact backyard space.
I don’t even like pears, but every time I’m given a bag of them from my grandfather, I manage to enjoy every bite.
Pears are a unique fruit in that they are hardy enough to survive in plenty of climates, which is one of the reasons I highly recommend growing pears if you have some room to spare. Another reason is that they can tolerate tight spaces. If you’re extremely short on room, there are also multiple dwarf varieties available. Pear trees are relatively low-maintenance and have fewer pest and disease issues than other fruit trees.
Sun scald is normally a problem in late winter and affects the south and southwest sides of trees. Fruit trees are more susceptible to sun scald than other types of trees because of their thin bark. The warm sun heats one side of the tree, making the bark tissue less cold hardy and resulting in inactive cells. These cells can freeze and die at night as temperatures drop, leading to discolored and sunken bark in late spring. Fruit trees affected by sun scald have damaged bark that cracks and sloughs off. To prevent sun scaled, tree wraps or paint are used to insulate tree trunks in late fall.
Trees planted too deep in the soil can contract a Phytophthora crown rot, which will kill the tree over time. There is no treatment for crown rot. Initial symptoms occur underground as the tree's roots rot from excess standing water in the soil. Above ground, the tips or twigs and branches die back. Young trees that develop crown rot may die over a short time period. Older trees will eventually weaken and die. Fungus remains in the soil even after the dead tree is removed, so gardeners should not plant another Asian pear in that location.
- Trees planted too deep in the soil can contract a Phytophthora crown rot, which will kill the tree over time.
Cracked and Split Fruit
2020’s unusual weather continues to provide unwelcome surprises. We are now seeing lots of apples with cracks. This can happen to pears and other fruit as well. Shallow cracks often heal but the fruit develops scars and the fruit is deformed. Decay may occur in fruit with deeper cracks, especially near harvest, as increased insect activity and secondary pathogens are more likely. Severely cracked fruit will likely not mature or be worth eating.
It’s common to see the same symptoms appear on garden vegetable such as tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers without regular watering.
What Causes Cracked Apples
Fruit split can be confused with disease, but it is actually caused by an irregular supply of water. The cracks form when heavy rain and high humidity follow a prolonged dry spell, stimulating a rapid swelling of the fruit. The skin i s not able to expand enough to accommodate the abundance of moisture and is stretched to a breaking point. The susceptibility of fruit to splitting varies with the apple cultivars, as well as by location and microclimates.
Most Susceptible Cultivars
The apple cultivars most susceptible to cracking are the popular Fuji, Gala, and Golden Delicious, and the lesser known Stayman, Wealthy and York.
Other Contributing Factors
When a fruit tree has health issues that result in less foliage and fruit, the smaller surface area reduces its ability for evapotranspiration, leading to fruit cracks. Stressed trees that are suffering from poor soil health, lack of moisture, insect or disease issues will not produce abundant foliage and strong flower buds. The fruit set is then low and excessive fruit drop is likely.
• Very late and hard pruning can affect normal growth of foliage.
• Sections infected with apple scab are not contributing the surface area of the tree.
• Trees with weak root systems cannot access water and nutrients as readily and are less resilient when faced with environmental stress.
What Can Be Done
Fruit cracking can be alleviated by giving the tree a steady supply of water during dry and hot stretches of weather. This is of course much easier said than done, so most of our apple trees remain at the mercy of Mother Nature. Additionally, ensuring the overall health of the tree through proper pruning, insect and disease control and improving soil health will help increase its ability to withstand environmental stressors.
Cultivar vs Variety
A cultivar is a plant that is produced and maintained by horticulturists but does not produce true to seed. A variety is a group of plants within a species that has one or more distinguishing characteristics and usually produces true to seed.
True to Seed
True to seed, or growing true, refers to plants whose seed will yield the same type of plant as the original plant.
Evapotranspiration is a combination of evaporation and transpiration. Evaporation is the physical movement of water into the air. Transpiration is the biological process of plants releasing water vapor through leaves. This water was previously pulled up by the roots from the soil.
These pears are probably infected with one of the cedar rusts, probably the cedar-quince rust. These rust diseases require two hosts to complete the life cycle. They cause spore releasing galls to grow on red cedars and other junipers. The cedar-quince rust spores infect nearby pears, apples, quince, and other plants of the rose genera.
The branches of the infected junipers form cankers, swollen areas that may split, and orange blisters. On other hosts, such as the pear, cankers may also form on the branches and small tubules grow on the leaves and fruit.
To prevent infection, pear or other rosaceae trees are sprayed with fungicide, beginning in the spring at the early bud phase before bloom, when the juniper host releases the spores. Early protection of apples, crabapples, pears, and hawthorns is especially important for control, as most infections occur within the first 30 days after bloom.
For some reason, this year seems to be a good year to see it emerge. While it is late to begin an effective fungicide schedule, be sure to begin spraying next spring at the crucial time.
Prune out and remove infected limbs and fruits from infected juniper and pear trees.
Avoid overhead watering methods because splashing water quickly spreads the pathogens.
The best way to control the disease is to not have juniper trees near the susceptible species. You may consider removing the nearby cedars or other juniper that may be hosting the disease spores. There are resistant cultivars available if you decide to replace your pears.
These links have more information, illustrations, and fungicide recommendations:
Fruit split is a disfiguring condition where one or more splits, often branched, are seen on the surface of apples, pears and other fruit. The splits are usually not very deep, but they cause wounds that allow diseases and pests to attack otherwise healthy (and tasty) fruit. Even if the fruit remains healthy the splits are disfiguring leaving the fruit only good for juicing or cooking.
Fruit split is a condition, not a disease, as it is caused by an irregular supply of water. The splits usually occur when rain follows a protracted dry spell and the sudden availability of moisture causes the fruit to swell too quickly.
The remedy is easier said than done as it is simply to ensure your fruit trees have a steady supply of water. Given varying weather conditions this is not as straightforward as might appear and of course, hosepipe bans can spoil the best laid plans.
The real solution therefore is a longer term one. It begins when you plant fruit trees, when it is important to incorporate plenty of well rotted organic matter in the planting mix. Good compost helps the soil retain moisture and so increases its ability to release water to plant roots in dry spells. Thereafter, you can continue to improve those moisture retaining properties by mulching. Ideally you should use more well rotted manure or garden compost, but failing that fresh grass clippings laid 2ins (5cms) deep will help retain moisture and will eventually rot down and improve the soil. Apply this mulch in the spring, when the soil is wet.