Just got this client question via e-mail:
Dear Paul, On my land near where the old farmhouse used to be is a living pear tree. It has to be over 100 years old. It used to have very large pears but no longer bears fruit. Some branches look like they have new growth. Is it possible to cut a branch and reroot it somehow? Stick it in water or soil and for roots to grow? Or would it have to be grafted to another pear tree? Is it possible an off-shoot of this tree would ever produce fruit? Sincerely, Fred
Here's my answer:
Here's the short version:
If you want pears, plant a new pear tree. Choose a cultivar/rootstock combination that is well suited for Piedmont North Carolina.
Here's the long version:
If the tree has some particular historical or sentimental value, then you could take a cutting and graft it onto appropriate rootstock to start a new tree. You could try it yourself, but grafting is pretty tricky and you might be better off if you could find a fruit tree nursery that could do the grafting. They could tell you when to take cuttings, how to store and ship, etc.
You could also skip the grafting and just root some cuttings, grow them out in pots for a season or two, then plant in the ground and see what happens. Only thing you have to lose is time and a few bucks for supplies.
You could also try to figure out why the tree is not bearing (likely due to shade or nutrient deficiency) and correct the problem to see if it would start bearing again.
Happy to provide more information on any or all of these options.