Winter pruning begins at Sweet Sensation orchard

The first winter pruning of 19,000 Sweet Sensation pears – a Dutch-developed blush Comice pear variety – has got underway at an orchard in Kent.

The seven hectare Sweet Sensation orchard, is based on the estate which is home to East Malling Research, and is the UK’s largest orchard of this variety. The orchard is the result of collaboration between East Malling Trust and AG Thames, a major supplier of UK and internationally sourced fruit.

Planted in May 2011, the Sweet Sensation pear orchard is fully irrigated and fertigated (the application of liquid fertilizer) and designed to benefit from the very latest developments in intensive pear production techniques from around the world. The East Malling team led by Farm Manager Graham Caspell is working closely with Jan Peters of Dutch agronomist Fruit Consult B.V on the pruning project.

Graham Caspell of East Malling Ltd, said: “The crucial task of winter pruning will shape the trees and help us create what we believe will be one of, if not the, most productive pear orchards in the country. The time spent over the next three months will not only play an important part in determining this year’s yield, and the orchard’s first harvest, but the early life of the orchard, and so it is of paramount importance that our team gets it right.”

At the heart of the new orchard is the use of growing methods successfully developed in Holland and trialled at East Malling in the Sainsbury’s Concept Pear orchard, also planted in partnership with AG Thames.

Francis Wheatley of AG Thames, said: “The UK climate, and Kent climate in particular, is suitable for growing Sweet Sensation, which is a variety that has a very attractive appearance and a delicious sweet, juicy flavour. Expert winter pruning has been shown to be an integral factor in the long term success of pear orchards.”

The Sweet Sensation orchard, also understood to be the largest new pear orchard planted in the UK in recent years, consists of 18,886 Sweet Sensation trees, alongside 4,000 Conference pear trees as pollinators. AG Thames has the exclusive rights to plant and market the Sweet Sensation pears grown in the UK.

Sweet Sensation pears are currently increasing in global popularity and now planted beyond Holland and Belgium, and have reached Italy, Spain, South Africa, and Argentina.

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