The National Perry Pear collection was primarily established to provide a living botanical collection of perry pear fruit trees and conserve a genetic resource for the nation. As signatories of The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, the UK government has a legally binding obligation to preserve its food plant genetic material. The perry pear is also a part of the cultural and traditional history of this part of Gloucestershire.
The Treaty also defines ‘in situ conservation’ as meaning the maintenance and recovery of viable populations of species in the surroundings where they have developed their distinctive properties. The perry pear originated as wildings or feral pears found growing in the villages around May Hill, such as Hartpury, on the borders of Gloucestershire and Herefordshire. The orchards of the National Perry Pear Centre provide good in situ conservation.
As well as maintaining the nation’s collection of perry pears, the Centre also publishes research manuals, undertakes fruit trials and other investigations. These activities are inevitably limited by the absence of any form of funding support.
The Hartpury Heritage Trust has commissioned the DNA profiling of the National Collection.
The flowering times of all varieties in the collection have been recorded over a number of years. The analysis of this enables the Centre to provide planting recommendations to assist good cross-pollination.
A trial orchard of 405 trees using 12 selected varieties on 4 different rootstocks was planted in 2015. They are being grown as bush trees, and monitored to record length of time until first commercial harvesting, weight of crop, period and ease of harvest and ultimately the quality of perry produced. Some of the varieties have recently been rediscovered, so the perry quality is unknown. Others are known vintage varieties. The trial should give an indication of suitability for commercial planting. It is hoped that funding can be obtained to assess the vintage quality where currently unknown.