Sainsbury's has planted a new trial orchard in a bid to triple pear production.

The new orchard at East Malling in Kent will trial new production techniques and is expected to produce its first fruit as early as next year - five years ahead of a traditional orchard.

Four planting techniques will be studied as researchers look to establish which approach is the most profitable to growers.

The approach, which follows on from Sainsbury's apple and organic trial orchards, had the potential to boost UK production from the present 12,500 tonnes a year to about 36,000 tonnes a year if growers adopted the most successful approach, according to the retailer.

The trial was necessary because unproductive old pear orchards were in the process of being replaced by newer apple orchards, putting the supply of English pears under threat, it added.