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Understanding Fire Blight

by Guest Author on 09/03/2010
Fire Blight

[Guest blog post by Judy]

Hello, my fellow fruit-lovers!

It has been very cool and wet here this past spring and summer. Of course, these are ideal conditions for bacterial diseases to infect our fruit trees, as well as other trees and shrubs. Since bacterial diseases are so common among fruit trees, I thought you home growers might like some background on one of the most prevalent bacterial diseases affecting apple and pear trees – Fire Blight. I am also going to give you some ideas on how to fight this disease!

What is Fire Blight?

Fire Blight is a contagious, systemic, bacterial disease. Bacteria (erwinia amylovora) attack the blossoms and then move up the twigs and branches through the tree system. The name “Fire Blight” comes from the scorched appearance of the infected leaves, stems, and bark. These areas may appear black, shrunken, and cracked. Blossoms will turn brown, wilt, and die about 1-2 weeks after infection occurs.

Fire Blight may also exhibit an amber-colored ooze (which is heavy with bacteria) from the bark of the tree. When the temperature begins to climb between 60°-80°F, it brings the bacteria out of dormancy and creates optimal conditions for spreading the disease. Bees, insects, birds, splashing rain, and wind easily spread Fire Blight disease.

Fire Blight commonly affects apple and pear trees (both fruit-bearing and ornamental varieties), but can also affect quince trees and other members of the Rosaceae family (including most common rose varieties and raspberry plants).

But we donʼt want to turn this into a science lecture*, so letʼs move on to how to handle Fire Blight.

*Learn more about the symptoms and life cycle of Fire Blight in this Fire Blight Fact Sheet via Cornell University.

Managing Fire Blight in Apple and Pear Trees

Fire Blight of Ornamental Pear TreeCultural practices. Any excessive amount of new growth on your tree is easily susceptible to Fire Blight infection. To avoid this, we recommend feeding with a low-nitrogen fertilizer during the growing season (stopping before July) – and only when necessary.

Clean up. Be sure to do a complete clean-up around your trees when fall rolls around. Collect all pruning debris, any mummied fruit, and leaves. Move them away from the trees and destroy them (do not put in compost). This will prevent the bacteria from over-wintering in the debris and then spreading. Be sure to also remove any tree suckers; since they are fast-growing and tender, they will also be vulnerable to infection.

Fire BlightBecause Fire Blight is highly contagious, take care to disinfect pruning tools. Sterilize the tools in a household bleach solution (ten parts water to one part bleach). Dip clippers between cuts. Be sure to wipe clippers dry to prevent corrosion. Alternatively, you can use alcohol wipes to clean your clippers between cuts, both protecting your trees and your tools.

Chemical control. A good Fire Blight Spray can help control infections and should be applied rom bloom time through the spring storm period, following the product label. Removing the blighted wood from infected shrubs and trees can help prevent the disease spreading. Prune off all infected branches at least 8 inches below the blighted area. Burn the affected branches, if possible.

There’s not one single practice that will insure complete control of Fire Blight. When we’re dealing with Fire Blight here at Stark Bro’s, we prune out the blighted areas immediately and do a thorough clean-up to prevent re-infection and minimize spreading. In high-pressure areas, your best defense is likely going to be a combination of cultural, chemical, and clean-up control methods. You may prefer to contact your local county extension experts to help you diagnose and control an outbreak of Fire Blight in your area.

I hope this information gives you a good understanding of Fire Blight and helps to make your fall, winter, and spring productive and disease-free!

– Judy

56 Comments

  1. Larry permalink

    In addition, Ag extension recommends using a basic copper sulfate solution in dormancy. Do you recomment that? and do you have a recipe for a basic copper sulfate solution.
    Finally, I have a number of apple and pear trees from Starkbrothers. I lost a seckel pear to fire blight. Do you have a replacement variety of seckel pear that is more resistant to fire blight?

    Larry

    • Judy permalink

      Hi Larry,
      A copper sulfate spray is good in dormancy, but we usually recommend using a combination of Dormant Oil and Lime Sulfur during dormancy. This combination will kill fungus, and the dormant oil will smother any eggs that are laid. One thing that will really help with all insects and diseases is a thorough fall cleanup. After your tree goes dormant, remove all mummied fruit from the tree and the ground. Rake away all pruning debris and leaves from your fruit trees, then burn all of it!

      Actually, the Seckel pear tree is moderately resistant to fire blight. Following a good spray schedule, and doing fall maintenance (pruning, clean-up) will certainly help keep your fruit trees insect and disease free. :)

  2. Cynthia Holder permalink

    I had this issue hit my apple, pear and raspberries. I tried to buy the Streptomycin spray to kill the bacteria and was told that it has been pulled off the market because of regulations. Do you know about this and if so what do we do now?

    • Judy permalink

      Hi Cynthia, boy, that is tough, having fire blight affect your trees! I don’t know if where you live the Streptomycin has been pulled off the shelves, but, we still carry Fertilome Fire Blight Spray (main ingredient: Streptomycin) and it has not been restricted to any states. Check your local garden store for Fire Blight spray. If you can’t find Fire Blight Spray, get a Copper Spray. That will work very well, also.

      Good luck with your fruit trees! If anything else comes up, just give us a shout. :)

      Judy

  3. cheryl permalink

    I by mistake got shipped a pear tree with several varieties of pear on the same tree. A couple varieties of the pears were very susceptible to fire blight. You really have to cut back and get everything out. I sprayed with a copper spray last fall and think it really helped. It was a pretty dry year too. I don’t think there is alot you can do if you have a variety that is very suspeptible to fire blight. I would cut the tree totally down but it’s a good poll. for other pear trees.

    How about an article on Brown Rot. I think I have the most problem with Brown Rot on fruit and can you get Brown Rot on the bark of the trees?

    • Judy permalink

      Hi Cheryl,

      One thing that helps a lot to retard any fungal disease is to do a complete fall clean-up. After your tree goes dormant, remove all mummied fruit from the tree and the ground, and rake up all pruning debris and leaves. Then burn all of it! This removes locations for over-wintering fungal spores. Infections from fruit may advance into wood causing small cankers.

      Keep your eyes open for a blog post about Brown Rot, we’ll have one up soon. :) We appreciate you taking the time to visit http://www.starkbros.com/blog!

  4. Pat Wood permalink

    Stark could do an invaluable service for us small growers by showing a photo of some common bacterial/fungicidal diseases along with the most effective remedies. This kind of information is essential to being a successful small orchard owner.
    Thanks for any assistance.

    • Meg permalink

      Thank you for your insight, Pat! We’ll be working on incorporating your suggestion into our future blog posts. If there is any disease in particular you’d like for us to cover, please let us know! :)

  5. JIM OQUINN permalink

    QUESTION? i HAVE LOST A NUMBER OF TREES, STRAWBERRIES, AND BLACKBERRIES IN VARIOUS PLACES IN MY YARD. CAN THE SOIL BE INFECTED?

    • Judy permalink

      Hello Jim,

      I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your plants and trees. It could be caused by infected soil, or it could be weather-related. If you were in an area that received a great deal of rain and had a very cool spring, that could cause a lot of problems as well. Your County Extension Agency should be able to help you with some good localized information and a soil test, if you would like one. Or if you prefer, you can e-mail me at info@starkbros.com. (Please include your zip code in your e-mail, as well as describing what trees/plants you have lost.) Don’t give up on growing, the answer is out there ~ and we will find it!

  6. Ken Kegley permalink

    I had a late hatch of San Jose Scale and it really made a mess couldn’t sell a 1/3 of the apples never had that happen.Apples ripened a month early here. I stopped spraying then all of a sudden there were all these scale flying around.I sprayed oil and lime sulfur this spring.but now I’m lost

    • Judy permalink

      Hello Ken! Control is aimed at the overwintering immature scales and at the San Jose Scale crawlers.

      - Spray the tree(s) with All Seasons® Dormant Oil before buds swell in the spring.
      - Be on the “look out” for crawlers to appear in the latter part of summer.
      - Spray with an insecticide containing diazinon (has been restricted from home use) or chlorpyrifos (Dursban) when crawlers appear. There are several pyrethroids and permethrin-based insecticides which you can use in place of diazinon (I recommend Rotenone-Pyrethrins Spray) when crawlers appear.
      - If there are recurring events later, you can use the same treatment method to rid your garden area of the scale.

      I hope this information helps you rid your apple orchard of San Jose Scale!

  7. jim turner permalink

    I have a damson plum tree that has black, corky growths on several limbs, which I cut off but the growths still persist. What is this & can the tree be saved? Is it a danger to nearby peachtrees? thanx for your feedback:)

    • jim turner permalink

      Has no one read my post? Will appreciate a response, thanx:)

      • Meg permalink

        Hi Jim, I am so sorry for the delayed response, as I had the information & completely forgot to post it for you! Please accept my apologies.

        It sounds like your plum tree has Black Knot (a disease we’ll be posting on in the near future). To control Black Knot, the important 1st step is pruning the infected branches & removing them from the growing area. (All black knot pruning should be done in late winter, before any new growth is present.)

        Pruning debris (leaves, cut branches, mummied fruits) should also be removed from the growing area & immediately burned. If burning is not possible, you can bury the removed knots in 1+ foot of compacted soil. The reason for burning/burying? Knots are capable of reproducing & releasing spores, which will re-infect tree. We want to avoid the cycle. :) Removing all sources of infectious spores from the area is really necessary.

        Also! …Fungicide spray can work defensively against black knot, but it won’t be very effective if the pruning & complete clean-up are ignored.

        Again, I’m truly sorry it’s taken me awhile to post this info for you! I hope it helps revive your plum tree, & watch for our blog post on the topic in the future. :) Best wishes, Jim!

  8. jim turner permalink

    thanx for your reply, meg..I am going to try your suggestions tomorrow. It is March 13, Sunday. Looking forward to new posting

  9. steven osborne permalink

    My keifer pear tree has been fully infected by fire blight, I was wondering if I could do anything to save it.

    • Hi there, Steve. If you have been fertilizing your tree, I would recommend holding off on the fertilizer until your fire blight issues are under control. As it states, the excessive new growth encouraged with fertilizers high in nitrogen will be susceptible to infection.

      Prune out any and all infected limbs a few inches below the visible signs of infection, cleaning/disinfecting the pruners between each cut (mandatory to avoid reinfecting the tree) like is mentioned here, burn anything you prune off so that it isn’t lying on the ground ready to reinfect your pear, and be sure to use something like Ferti-Lome® Fire Blight Spray to control the disease.

      You did say the tree is “fully infected” so if it is that bad it may be beyond saving. If there is a chance it has not been overtaken by fire blight, it may take a lot of effort, but you should be able to save your tree.

  10. Glenda permalink

    I have two apple trees that I planted last year. The new leaves would curl up and turn brown. Also, some of the older leaves would do the same. I have been thinking that it was fire blight. However, the leaves and stems never turned black, only brown and withered. Someone told me that fire blight always turns the tips black. Is this true? I have a ton of new trees coming this spring, including other apples, cherries, plums, and peaches. I am wondering if I should just remove the two trees in question before my new shipment comes in or if it will be possible to save them.

    • Hello Glenda :) The best way to tell if your current trees are infected with fire blight (and aren’t suffering from something like a nutrient deficiency or mites instead) would be to see pictures of what you’re experiencing.

      If you could please send photos to info@starkbros.com we will be able to better identify what is wrong with the trees. Be sure to mention whether the trees in question hold onto their brown leaves or if the leaves drop off the tree. It would greatly help us help you solve this! :)

  11. Doug permalink

    Our two Thirty five foot Cleveland pears, exactly ten years old, are full of Fire blight. By the time I got any answers of what this condition was, There is no pruning back 12 inches to prune out the bad diseased starts. There are so many within inches of the main limbs that I am afraid it’s too late. Plus the fact of reaching the upper parts of the tree would be impossible without a bucket truck. We just are devastated about this, they are beautiful trees, almost perfect in shape and fullness and bloom so well. Our county ext. agent says Sprays do nothing to cure they just prevent. Pruning out is the only chance, and that is slim to none.

    • I’m sorry to hear your Cleveland ornamental pear trees have fire blight, Doug. :( Years ago it wasn’t found in ornamental pears but over time we have even found it in our own Cleveland pears growing here. Fire blight sprays are a control, not a cure, but (combined with the pruning the tree needs) it is the best bet for your trees.

      I would recommend hiring a licensed tree professional to help you save your Cleveland pear trees, especially since they are so tall and pruning isn’t something you feel is possible. It sounds like you care for your trees and I think it would be better for you (and them) to have them professionally cared for than to watch them suffer. :)

  12. Erin permalink

    I have an apple tree in my small (8 tree) orchard that has black soot down the trunk..and assume this is fire blight…would you consider this tree a loss? should I just remove the tree? I also question 2 adjacent trees- the branches appear fine, but where the trees were pruned up along the truck appear to be black…should I hold off on adding any trees to the orchard this year?

    • Hi Erin! Since Fire Blight tends to present in the flowers/leaves/limbs of the susceptible trees, the fact that the trunk is the only thing with the sooty appearance leads me to believe it is not Fire Blight affecting your trees. If you could take some photos of the trees and the black soot appearance on their trunks [and send them to info@starkbros.com] we might get a better idea of what it is so that we can advise you accordingly. :)

  13. Jakeru permalink

    Hey everyone! My father is growing a bunch of Asian pear and sweet cherry trees on our farm in Pineville Missouri (southwest MO) and we’ve run across what seems to be a strange pest that we can’t identify.
    It’s a styrofoam-like dark grey or dark brown shiny thumb-nail sized blob that attaches only to the smaller twigs on the trees and it wraps around the twigs almost completely but not entirely. It’s sort of crusted to the twig and the underside seemed to had little circles which could potentially be seeds or spores or something. There are often multiple twigs infected per tree and each twig that is infected generally has more than one of these small whealts. The things can be removed manually with relative ease.
    The Asian pear trees seem uneffected but still infected by their presence but the sweet cherry trees seem to be suffering, but it could just be due to heat stress and the Japanese beetles.
    Any help identifying or treating would be appreciated! Thanks!

    • Hi there! I am very curious about this occurrence you’re seeing on your cherry trees, Jakeru. It sounds like it could be residue from where a pest infested the twigs, but I don’t want to be wrong and be misinterpreting something like black knot (which wouldn’t be controlled with a pesticide). Would you be able to send us any photos of this on the cherry trees? If so, you can email us at info@starkbros.com and we would be glad to look into this issue for you. :)

      The heat and Japanese beetles would definitely explain the stress on the Asian Pear trees and the sweet cherry trees as well. This has been an increasingly rough growing season.

  14. Sissy permalink

    We have had a Bartlett pear tree for 10 years and it never bloomed until this year ( 2012 ). had lots of pears but didn’t last long It got fire blight. We have over the years tried every thing we could to save this tree but nothing worked. We have pruned cleaned up and sprayed. My husband says it’s to much trouble and is taking the tree down. Didn’t know you could burn the infected limbs as it is air born Thanks for your info. Very helpful.

  15. Sissy permalink

    I didn’t get a reply from my last comment about the fire blight on our pear tree. Just wanted to say although we are cutting the tree down we will buy more trees from Stark Bros. just not fruit trees. By the way we didn’t buy that tree from you. should have.

    • Sorry for not commenting before, Sissy, I just felt silly since I’m the one who directed you to this post from the How to tell when your pears are ready to harvest comment about your fire blight issue. ;)

      It might comfort you to know that trees like peaches, plums, and cherries are not affected by this bacteria (as it mostly targets trees like apples, pears, and quinces) if you still wanted to grow a fruit tree! Other types of trees are just as nice if you’re not looking for a tree that provides something edible. :)

  16. GREG BARNES permalink

    Can you use fire blight spray in conjunction with bonide orchard spray?

    • Hi Greg! Our experts here use fire blight spray in conjuction with pesticides and insecticides. The advice we would provide is to spray the fire blight spray first, especially since it works systemically (absorbed into the tree to be effective). If you did the orchard spray first, you’d be breathing it in while applying the fire blight spray. The other way is safer for you and tends to be more effective for your trees! :)

  17. Hamid permalink

    Hello we have 5 Asian pears of different varieties from Stark Brothers that are doing great. One gets fire blight but it can be controlled. However we bought a Wine Sap and Granny Smith from the local big box store and both succumbed to fire blight last year. My question is can I plant over the old trees (with Stark Bro trees of course, learned my lessons the hard way) or is the ground toast and the new trees will also develop fire blight?

    • Hello Hamid! Fire Blight is a bacterial disease that is systemic and very contagious. It’s not something that is restricted to the soil of the planting site where infected trees once grew. It can be spread by birds and insects and other critters climbing in infected trees and then spreading it to trees that have not been infected yet. The best method would be to plant more blight-resistant varieties (like Enterprise Apple and GoldRush Apple along with a Fire Blight Spray) but if you’re set on replanting with Winesap and Granny Smith apple trees, you can try to control the spread of the disease with the Fire Blight Spray and careful selective pruning cuts.

      Another thing you should consider is contacting your local County Extension [find yours online here: http://www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/ and seeing if they have any more advice for your location there.

  18. Stanton de Riel in Hamilton, NJ permalink

    My Aromanatoya (sp?) edible quince, transplanted last year, is now 6′ high x 7′ wide and generally thriving. This spring, after setting ~60 fruit, isolated small branchlets (4-7 leaves) suddenly started wilting, with the leaves turning uniform dull brown. Sometimes these were tipped with a non-sizing-up fruit. I pull these shoots off and trash-bag them; there’s no sign of the wilt spreading into the parent twigs (yet!). Could this be fireblight, some other assorted minor infection, or just the tree self-pruning due to fruit load and hot, dry weather? If the last, would removal of some of the fruit be indicated?

    • Do you have any photos of your quince tree with these brown, wilting limbs? It would be helpful to see, since this sort of thing can occur due to brown rot (fungus), black rot (fungus), fire blight (bacteria), or even scald (sun, drought).

      Trees typically don’t develop brown leaves and limbs when they naturally shed their fruit due to overproduction (fruit drop). Thinning the fruit, while improving the quality of your tree’s remaining ripening fruit, won’t help if it’s a disease that is occurring within your quince. If you can send any photos to us, please either link them here or email them to info@starkbros.com — you may also contact your local county Extension Service for locally-based growing advice and disease control/prevention there. :)

  19. Barbara in Seattle, Washington permalink

    Hi there. I have a Japanese plum that is bearing with tremendous enthusiasm and the green plums appear fine. But, as the fruit is ripening, there are large ovals of brown and the fruit is hard and discolored underneath. There is also a great deal of sap oozing from limbs. Can you tell me what this is and whether I can save any of this year’s crop? Many thanks

    • Hi Barbara! It sounds very likely that your plum tree is experiencing Brown Rot. Brown rot is a disease that affects stone fruits like plums and is caused by a fungus. It is very common in moist regions and during wet springs/summers. It’s fairly easily treated with a fungicide that can be used on plum trees and that targets the cause of brown rot.

      Examples:
      Captan Fruit & Ornamental
      Fung-onil™ Multi-Purpose Fungicide

      Before spraying, and as a general precaution to avoid re-infecting the developing fruit, be sure to remove and destroy ALL of the fruit with these spots or any fruit that has become mummified on the tree or on the ground.

  20. Charles D. Miller permalink

    Lost two mature pears due to blight. Would there be any disadvantage to rubbing off any new buds on the trunk and main branches near trunk forcing all new growth well out? Seems that the three leaf growths on trunk brought the blight into the main structure so cutting out was impossible.

    • I’m sorry to hear of your troubles with blight on your pear trees, Charles. :( Do you have any photos to share with us of the trunk where you think that blight got into your pear tree? It will help us see what you’re seeing*. If the blight has already gotten into the trunk, you will notice a canker form, which will eventually lead to the decline of the tree, since it’s in its vascular system then. I’m not sure it will be any help to encourage new growth toward the top once the trunk has already been infected.

      *You can send photos of your tree to us by email (info@starkbros.com attention: Sarah) or share them on our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/starkbros.co) :)

      • Charles D. Miller permalink

        Sarah, pics on the way of suspected fire blight. Title: Fire Blight 1 and 2, have to use two e-mails for all the pics.Tks.

  21. Natasha Raymond permalink

    Hi, I have a Plum tree w/fireblight. the cankers are on the branches, but, I am seeing the beginning of cankers developing in the trunk. I will cut it down today. I do have, however, lots of fruit trees and would like to save them! and I have more fruit trees coming in from Stark Brothers. I also have two Asian plums, multiple Asian pears, lots of other pears and cherries and apple trees. I want to plant another fruit tree in the plums place—What can I plant? How to prevent close lying trees from getting infected? does Stark sell and all in one preventive spray, and also what is safe for the bees and birds? will this copper sulfate you mentioned earlier harm the drinking water? I am on a well, but, also am concerned for the wildlife. how do I prevent fireblight on my other trees and preserve the ecosystem, bees and birds and other animals as well. does stark sell any of this stuff? what should I buy? and how to maintain. I have thousands of dollars in plants and trees, and I hate to lose everything. the plum was planted in sandy, well draining soil, was not fertilized more than throwing a handful of Osmocoat on the peonies in the spring. if I remembered. it grew fast, by itself. was facing south, was protected from wind by a semi-dwarf Bartlett pear about 15 to 12 feet away from it. I had no idea that the Asian pears, I have several three in one Asian pears, and I bought 3 in one cherry tree and four in one apple, plus the usual assortment of peaches, pears-seckel, Anjou, Comstock, keiffer, etc. how to protect all of these and where on earth did this disease come from. I am the only one with fruit trees in my immediate area, other than some older apples trees which I have and a neighbor. it’s wild or farm out here. please advise before I order more fruit trees from stark brothers. thanks, natasha –ps. other fruit trees also on sand or else in heavy clay, it’s one of the other.

    • Hi Natasha!

      Well, the “good news” is that your plum tree didn’t have fireblight, since plum trees are not affected by that particular bacterial disease. However, if it had bacterial canker, it was likely initially caused by a cool wet spring, and the bacteria probably stayed dormant through the summer, fall, and winter, to emerge and spread the following spring.

      Bacterial canker is difficult to control if it’s already there, but more easy to avoid in the first place. Trees that have a good foundation and healthy soil are more vigorous and tend to be more resistant to the bacteria. Fertilizing helps, but the “right spot” is always preferable. Copper-based fungicides are said to help, but the best thing you can do now is have your plum tree’s issue professionally identified.

      It’s impossible to advise what steps to take if you don’t know for sure what the tree was suffering with. If you have any photos of the plum tree with cankers, or if you have not yet removed the tree, your local county extension should be a great help in identifying the issue. They can also help in recommending what you can do to protect your other fruit trees (in case they are at risk) and what you should do to avoid this happening again.

      Find the contact information for your local experts here:
      http://www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/

      Bacterial canker tends to target young “prunus” fruit trees, which includes cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots, and of course plums. The same bacteria won’t affect your apple and pear trees, but you should probably not plant any new trees in the same planting hole as the plum you cut down just as a general rule. I also recommend getting the issue properly diagnosed by your local experts before trying to plant something else, just to be safe.

  22. Brian permalink

    I purchased 13 trees from Stark Bros. over the Winter. I lost the Sweet Cherry Crimson to some kind of disease and I have two pear trees that never produced any leaves although the trunk looked green. One of the trunks is now black and the other trunk still looks green with about 2-3 inches of a black trunk at the top. Anybody know what is going on with these pear trees? The other pear tree is doing fine. Any help would be appreciated.

    • If you’ve been treating for fire blight with no effect, bear in mind black limbs/trunks may not necessarily be a symptom of fire blight. Try pruning the top back below the black part on the tree that still has green tissue in its trunk. I’m not sure where you’re located or what your spring was like earlier, but frost damage and injury as a result of cold snaps can cause this in young plants and trees as well.

      If you ultimately find that your trees succumb to their affliction, give our customer support team a call (800.325.4180) so we may record the issue and look into replacements for you. I’d also recommend taking photos and contacting your local county cooperative extension to see if they can advise you further on what might be going on with your trees — before planting any new ones. I hope this helps!

  23. Rich permalink

    One of my northern spy trees have some sort of blight on the leaves. It had a small infection of cedar rust but I resumed spraying recently since the end of May. I noticed Saturday night the ENTIRE tree looked like it was thirsty…so Sunday when it still looked that way I watered it generously. Last night I sprayed a Copper solution on it to hopefully help fight whatever it is. From my research, I gathered if it was fireblight I’d be seeing MORE black on the tree and it wouldn’t necessarily impact the entire tree all at once. I’m afraid of using too much of the wrong stuff to solve my problem here delaying my ability to use a real solution. I’m seeing little black spots clustered together on the leaves in groups so I’m thinking they may be the infection….but it’s hitting the WHOLE tree. As a plan B, and should I need to scuttle the tree to prevent the whole orchard from getting this, how late in the year can I order from you guys before I’m waiting for November? Is it June 30 or July 31st?

    Thanks,
    Rich

    • While sources say using copper early in the spring helps to protect* against the fungus that causes cedar apple rust, using copper during the growing season can actually defoliate an apple tree if used often or in large amounts.

      *effectiveness varies by season, susceptibility, and population of host trees

      Since fire blight is caused by a bacteria, not a fungus, the copper won’t do much to treat or prevent a fire blight infection. If fire blight is prevalent in your area, be sure to avoid lots of nitrogen-heavy fertilizer, since tender new growth is more susceptible to fire blight infection. Using a fire blight spray, like mentioned in the article, will help.

      This spring has been “perfect” weather for fire blight here — cool and rainy — and we’re certainly seeing fire blight in untreated apple and pear trees, but it’s not afflicting the whole tree. I would recommend contacting your local county cooperative extension to see if they can help advise you on what the issue is (if it’s not fire blight) and what they recommend in severe cases if it is fire blight.

      If it comes down to you needing to remove and replace the tree, we are tentatively shipping until July 1 this spring (depending on the weather not heating up too quickly first). This gives you a couple of weeks.

      • Rich permalink

        Thanks for the info! Hopefully I didn’t use too much copper…I had it in a squirt bottle sprayer and although the infected tree got most of the spray, I did a little on all of the apple trees. The irrigation system running this morning might have helped clean some of it off too. I hate when I learn by making a dumb mistake… I’ll probably look to use the bonide fruit tree spray very soon as I’m not seeing black spots on the leaves. I’ll also get some of the fireblight stuff and work that into the schedule.

        Thanks so much for your help!

        ~Rich

  24. Sue permalink

    I am pretty sure our pear tree has Fire blight. We bought the house with the old pear tree and so I don’t know much about fruit trees. AS I read, i am understanding I need to cut out the affected limbs. Do I then spray with Fire Blight Spay or is it too late for the spray to work? I already have pears on the tree. If I do spray the tree are the pears edible this year or should they be burned too?

    So next year it looks like I would need to do some preventitive spraying on all the fruit trees? What would i use and when.

    It looks like I cannot buy Fire Blight spray from you as I live in Missouri.

    • The most effective time to spray for fire blight is when the trees are in bloom. You can still spray afterward, but it may not be as effective. Pruning and proper sanitation of the pruning tool in between cuts is definitely a big help in reducing the spread of the disease.

      Since you live in Missouri, which restricts us shipping the Ferti-lome Fire Blight Spray, I would suggest checking your local garden center for the same product or something by a different brand. If your garden center doesn’t have anything, your local county cooperative extension would be the next best source of information and advice on what to use.

      If you use streptomycin spray (like the Ferti-lome) to control fire blight, you may be instructed by the product label not to eat the fruit that was sprayed, since streptomycin is basically a human antibiotic.

      I’ve heard from several sources that, depending on the severity of the fire blight infection, it may be more worth your time to remove old diseased trees and replace with blight-resistant varieties — I think this would be an extreme solution, but I thought I might mention it.

  25. Robin permalink

    Hello! I planted a new elderberry bush this Spring. It was doing great, but now the leaves are a spotty brown. Any ideas on what this could be or how to treat it?

    • Elderberry plants growing in high-moisture areas may show signs of fungal disease. Without me having a photo to look at, I can’t speak for certain what the spots are, but brown spots are often a sign of a fungus.

      Remove and destroy the spotted leaves and stems and you can try using a fungicide (multi-purpose or even natural) and see if it helps clear up the issue.

  26. Robert Nichols permalink

    Does fire blight affect walnut trees? I have a Kwik-Krop Walnut planted in Fall of 2012 that is starting to have some leaves that turn brown or black starting near the tip and eventually curl and fall off. It has been a very cool and wet Spring this year. I need to know how to treat this.

    • Fire blight mostly affects trees like apples and pears (even ornamental ones), but not walnuts/black walnuts. What you’re seeing is more than likely a fungal disease, like leaf spot, but you may be better off contacting your local county cooperative extension for more localized advice — I don’t want to suggest that it’s a fungal disease when it might actually be something more serious and viral, like walnut anthracnose, in the area.

      If you are able to determine that it is a fungal disease, your tree may be able to survive it without treatment (if it’s too large to spray), since it will mostly affect a few leaves. You can try a nut-tree-friendly fungicide like this spray if your tree is still small enough to manage the fungal disease.

  27. Laurie permalink

    My two pear trees have fire blight, but they are also loaded with fruit that appears healthy. Is it OK to consume the fruit of a tree that is covered with fire blight?

    • Fireblight tends to affect specific limbs — usually ones that bloomed or had injury where the disease got into the tree — so it is possible for a tree that has fire blight to also have some unaffected limbs/fruit. In this case, the fruit will be edible; however, if you have treated your trees with a spray to fight the bacteria that causes fire blight (one that contains streptomycin or something like that), it is recommended that you don’t eat the fruit from the tree the same year that you’ve sprayed fire blight spray.

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