Conference pear: blossom, pollination & harvest

Patrick
Patrick
Patrick
Patrick

I am currently working on my master's in agricultural sciences, specialising in plant sciences. In my free time, I am passionate about growing my own fruit and veg. I find a real sense of balance gardening at my parent's house. When I'm not in the garden, I like to go hiking to discover amazing photo ops.

Favourite fruit: currants and blackberries
Favourite vegetables: carrots, mushrooms and onions

The ‘Conference’ pear tree is a real classic. Read on to find out how to cultivate these wonderfully delicious, juicy fruits!

Ripe conference Pyrus conference
The ‘Conference’ pear tree has delicious fruits and is ideal for your home garden [Photo: Elenglush/ Shutterstock.com]

Pyrus communis ‘Conference’ is one of the most popular pear varieties in Europe. Its consistent yield ensures a delicious harvest every autumn. Here is all you need to know about planting ‘Conference’ pear trees in the garden and harvesting their fruits.

‘Conference’ pear: profile

FruitMedium-sized; green, yellow when fully ripe
FlavourJuicy, sweet with pleasant acidity, light muscat flavour
YieldRegular; small fruits
Harvest timeSeptember to October
Ripe to eatOctober to beginning of November
Shelf lifeMedium; pears harvested early, can be stored until end of December
GrowthSemi-dwarf
ClimateAlso suitable for cool locations
Pests and diseasesHardy to most diseases; slightly susceptible to fire blight

Origin and history of the ‘Conference’ pear

It is no coincidence that the ‘Conference’ pear is named as such. In 1885, a conference was held in England to promote the cultivation of pears on home soil. More than 600 pears were presented at this conference, but one variety stood out by far. Since known as the ‘Conference’ pear, this variety soon gained popularity at home and abroad.

Thomas Francis Rivers, who bred the variety, selected it from open-pollinated seedlings of the mother variety ‘Léon Leclerc de Laval’. The pear has been on the market since 1894 and is one of the most cultivated pear varieties in Central and Western Europe.

Taste and characteristics of the ‘Conference’ pear

‘Conference’ pears are medium-sized, slender and elongated. The fruits are green in colour with a light brown rusting and turn yellow when fully ripe.

The delicate, white-yellow flesh of the ‘Conference’ pear melts in the mouth. (For an even finer texture, look out for the ‘Beurre Hardy’ variety!) The pears are sweet and very juicy, with a pleasant acidity and a slight muscat flavour.

Cut open ripe conference pear fruit
The ‘Conference’ pear stands out with its balanced flavour [Photo: AG Photo Design/ Shutterstock.com]

Planting and caring for the ‘Conference’ pear

‘Conference’ pear trees grow about 40cm a year, to around 4m. If you decide to graft your tree onto a rootstock, these growth rates may differ. The tree works well as a standard tree, but even better as a semi-dwarf or dwarf tree. In this case, Quince rootstocks are suitable for grafting. ‘Quince C’ is slow-growing, while ‘Quince A’ and ‘Quince Adams’ produce a medium to strong growth. For stable growth, reach for the ‘Pyrodwarf’ rootstock with medium growth, or ‘OHF 333’ for medium to strong growth.

Your tree’s rootstock defines what the tree needs from its soil. In general, however, ‘Conference’ pear trees enjoy nutrient-rich soil, under full sun or partial shade. If the soil in your garden is nutrient-deficient, try applying a slow-release fertiliser, such as our Plantura All Purpose Plant Food.

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The ‘Conference’ pear tree is a hardy variety that is resistant to frost and most common pear diseases, such as pear scab. However, it is moderately susceptible to fire blight – so watch out!

Between April and May, ‘Conference’ pear trees produce bright white flowers that will survive the frost. However, pears cannot self-pollinate, so be sure to plant a pollinator nearby. ‘Bosc’ pear, ‘Louise Bonne d’Avranches’, ‘Charneux’ and ‘Williams’ pear trees work particularly well alongside your ‘Conference’.

A great advantage of the ‘Conference’ tree is its medium to strong branching, which produces a regular yield. In fact, because it tends to produce so many fruit, they can be rather small – there are so many fruits that the tree cannot supply each with enough nutrients to grow large and tasty. As such, thinning your tree is a good idea to improve fruit quality. ‘Conference’ pear trees have.

If you buy a grafted pear tree, expect the first pears to appear around three years after planting. Be sure to plant your ‘Conference’ in Spring, and, within the first few years, prune it annually, from January to March, before the blossom.

Tree of conference pears ready to harvest
The ‘Conference’ pear variety normally bears fruit very regularly [Photo: Tom Meaker/ Shutterstock.com]

Tip: When it is cool and wet, pear trees can blossom up to 10 days earlier than apple trees. Honeybees avoid cold and wet weather, so pear trees become dependent on wild bee pollination. Encourage wild bees in your garden by planting a flower meadow!

When to harvest ‘Conference’ pears

‘Conference’ pears begin to ripen from September and are usually fully ripe between October and the beginning of November. You will know the fruit is ripe when it is soft and yellow. For a crunchy pear, or if you want to store your pears, begin to harvest them before the fruit turns yellow.

‘Conference’ pears are perfect fresh, baked in cakes or preserved. If you harvest the fruits before they are fully ripe, they will keep in the fridge until around the end of December. When fully ripe, however, ‘Conference’ pears don’t keep – so eat up!

In an orchard, the ‘Conference’ pear partners well with ‘Bosc’ pear; the two varieties pollinate one another.

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