The Victorian Government has committed $1.1 million to expand a program to boost the profitability of pear growers, many of them based in the Goulburn Valley.
Speaking in Ardmona today, Agriculture and Food Security Minister Peter Walsh said the program would focus on developing new varieties to improve fresh market appeal and productivity, while developing market opportunities for growers.
"Department of Primary Industries (DPI) scientists have already produced two new highly promising pear varieties as a result of their work leading the national pear breeding project," Mr Walsh said.
"The new pear varieties will be the keys to entering new fresh-fruit markets, both domestic and overseas."
Mr Walsh said the project was part of the Victorian Government's $61.4 million Growing Food and Fibre initiative.
"The Government is also spending $240,000 to establish a four hectare orchard block and pear field laboratory in Tatura, to test new pear varieties and orchard management systems," Mr Walsh said.
Mr Walsh said much of the research using new fresh market pear varieties would be undertaken in that pear field laboratory over the next six years.
"The new pears will be more appealing to consumers than the traditional varieties mostly grown in Australia," Mr Walsh said.
"The horticultural sector is at a critical turning point in Victoria as it targets high-value domestic markets as well as significant and expanding new markets in Asia.
Mr Walsh said researchers would look to speed up tree growth, increase the size and number of fruit per tree and ensure consumer-approved fruit quality.
"Researchers will study rootstocks, planting density, training and irrigation systems, pruning and crop load as well as maturity and post-harvest management," Mr Walsh said.
"Pear orchards usually take about 10 years to produce enough fruit for growers to receive a return on their investment and we hope this research will cut that to four or five years.
"Pears, stonefruit and almonds all have strong export potential and Victoria is already a dominant producer.
"We will also be improving systems throughout the production chain to enable traceability from grower right through to consumer.
"This will help develop and nurture consumer confidence in safety, quality and reliability of Victorian products."
Mr Walsh said the Victorian Government was determined to secure the long-term future of Victoria's $1.9 billion horticulture industry.