Need help with apple and pear trees

Emily Poate

New Member
Hi everybody!

I have a serious issue with the trees in my garden here in Melbourne, VIC and I am looking for help. I stumbled upon this forum and decided to try my luck finding a solution. A couple of weeks ago I noticed that some of the trees in our backyard started had a few dried leaves. I thought it was because fall was arriving, but with each day the brown spots became bigger and bigger, and now I noticed that the branches with brown leaves on them are also dying. I think there is a disease or a bug in my garden, which is destroying all my hard work. I already started looking for a local gardening company or someone, who could help me with the issue, but I also wanted to ask for more opinions. Maybe it's something which could be easily fixed? I don't know much about tree pests and diseases, this is the first time I have issues like that. I'm attaching a picture of the issue, so you can have a visual of the problem too. Now around 20% of the tree are affected.

Thanks in advance for any help you could provide!
 

TimBr

Official Well Known Greeter
Hey, Emily! Welcome to the TreeBuzz forum! There are a bunch of smart, knowledgeable people on this forum, so I'm sure someone will chime in with some good information.

I'm mostly posting to say that I'm reading your post on a handheld computer, and for some reason your photo is not showing up. What I am getting are the letters "IMG", surrounded by brackets. So I don't know if the problem is with my device, or with the transmission of the image. Most likely, if I were looking at your post on my laptop computer, I'd see the image just fine. I just thought you should know what I'm experiencing.

Also, I'm not a pro arborist, just a guy who's been teaching himself to climb trees for about three years, in order to try to do useful work for friends and family.

There is one member of this forum who is actually a professional plant biologist/researcher. I'll try to find his name, and see if I can post a link to his profile.

Good luck with finding the answers you are seeking.

Tim
 

TimBr

Official Well Known Greeter
@Emily Poate, Here is the link to the profile page of the member I had in mind.

http://www.treebuzz.com/forum/members/ktsmith.2441/

It would be nice if he could answer your questions in the open forum, the way we are talking now, so that we might all learn from him, if possible.

When you are on his profile page, if you click on a "button" to "start a conversation", it will open up a text box that allows you to have a private conversation with ktsmith, and maybe you could invite him to read the thread you started and to make his comments there.

Hopefully he checks in here at the Buzz fairly frequently. If and when he does sign in, he'll get a notification at the top of his page that he's got a private message waiting. I hope this helps.

Tim
 

Treezybreez

Well-Known Member
Looks like Fire Blight. You will need to cut out the infected areas and sterilize your pruner with a bleach/water solution. Fire Blight is best controlled by planting blight resistant varieties. If you intend to save your trees (or at least get fruit) then you will need to follow a strict spray program that can be harmful to insects like honey bees.
 

KTSmith

Well-Known Member
Thanks Tim, for the plug.

Hello Emily, I need to quickly say that there are likely Treebuzzers in Australia who have a much greater knowledge on your local conditions than I do here in northern New England.

Also, Victoria has a large apple and pear industry. One of their export services has information on apple and pear culture that might apply to homeowner-scale stuff: http://apal.org.au/research-development-extension/projects/intensive-pear/

I would also check out the local university folks online. Even when I need help I'm willing to pay for, I like to get as much free information in advance to help in discussing what's up with a paid professional.

From the single image, I'd have to say that yes, you might have an insect or disease problem. I'm afraid that doesn't help much, might be many causes. But take heart, in any given combination of locale and tree species, there are usually not more than a handful of likely causes.

With those dried-up leaves and branches: Do they look as if someone took a blowtorch to them? Do the end of the killed branches look almost charred? Fireblight (caused by a well-understood bacterium) can cause that and worldwide is probably the most damaging disease of apple and pear.

Alternatively, on the dying leaves or on the mostly healthy leaves adjacent to the killed ones, please describe the spots. Closeup images are best, but usually beyond most folks phone cameras. Do the spots have well-defined margins? Are they from the leaf margins heading in to the leaf? Are they on leaf veins or between them? Are the spots just dead and brown or is there zonation of color? Are there little black pinprick dots in the center of the spots or not? Although apple scab (the most common fungal damaging disease of apple/pear) is usually more spread out in the tree canopy. Lots of pictures of that online.

I'd happy to pop by for a look, rather than watching the Spring snowflakes drift by my home office window in Portland, Maine, but I'm sure there are folks nearby who could give an accurate diagnosis. By all means, post some more details and we can let you know what we think.
 

Emily Poate

New Member
Hi everybody and thanks a lot for the quick answers! You have no idea what this means to me!
I know I should probably look for an Australian forum about trees and tree pests, but I just couldn't find one so quickly. This forum is what kept popping up while I was searching, so I decided to try. And I am glad I did, because you people are full of suggestions! From my research and from what you wrote here, I think it might be fire blight. Here's a close photo of some of the leafs to confirm it:


As you can see they look like burnt by something very nasty. I don't know much about universities in the local area, but here we have many nurseries, where you can bring samples and get answers. I contacted 2 of them - http://www.vinc.net.au/catalogue/catalogue.htm and http://www.ngiv.com.au/ . They both claim that it's probably fire blight or some other nasty bacteria, which targets especially apple and pear trees. It also turns out that because of the latest climate changes these diseases are a lot more active and there's been an outbreak in our area.
They advised me to get a contractor, which can remove the trees which are too affected to be saved and trim and treat the ones which are still slightly infected. I researched the local contractors and so far I found one which specialises in tree care and removal at the same time in the area - http://www.gardeners-melbourne.com.au/tree-removal/ . They kept popping up in my online search and they claim to stick to nature friendly solutions in most of their work, so I decided to give them a try. I contacted them and after sending them some photos of the most affected trees, they said that they will probably have to remove them. So far it looks like I might lose 3 or 4 trees, which made me very sad :( They also mentioned a spray of some sorts, just like you people did, but they explained that it's toxic or something, and my goal is to have an organic produce, so it's a big dilemma whether to use it. I guess I will allow them on my property to do an assessment and I will think about this later.
What are your opinions on this fire blight? Is it very dangerous to the fruits? Is complete removal of the most affected trees the only way to save my garden? Would you recommend using a spray or is it better to just trim, remove trees and hope for the best? Is there a nature friendly alternative to this spray? Thanks in advance!
 

CutHighnLetFly

Well-Known Member
Using chemicals at a time where your reaching a threshold isnt somehing to feel poorly about, we are dealing with nature which changes constantly nd rapidly.
But maybe roll with spraying this year if it needed and your heart set on said trees, and start cycling out some of your less resistant cultivars for more pest resistant trees.
 

KTSmith

Well-Known Member
Treezybreez got it right first. Pretty clearly fireblight, caused by the bacterium Erwinia amylovora. As Treezy said, it can be transmitted from tree-to-tree by pruning tools. In nature, infection is likely through the nectaries of the female flower parts with inoculum provided by pollinating bees, flies, etc.
I know you likely already have this, but for other readers, rour provincial agriculture authorities have this to say: http://agriculture.vic.gov.au/agric...ruit-and-nuts/pome-fruit-diseases/fire-blight

Fear of fireblight is the primary justification to restrict importation of pome fruit from New Zealand, although there may be other trade reasons as well.

If it were me, I'd tune in to local/regional organic grower groups and compare notes. Indeed, the use of resistant varieties is the recommended control. And that is also not as simple as it sounds. In my region, for example, the history of resistant varieties of pear is pretty sketchy and fireblight is the reason that there is essentially no large-scale commercial production of pears in northern New England, organic or otherwise. I do know folks who maintain a few pear trees for household consumption and maintain them through aggressive, systematic, sanitation pruning.
 

Treezybreez

Well-Known Member
My neighbors have a couple of very hardy rock pears they do nothing to them and yet one year they produced over 200 pears. The next year they didn't produce anything. I suspected fire blight got the flowers that year. Even though rock pears aren't the best for eating raw, they make great pear butter.
 

Emily Poate

New Member
Yeah, I guess fire blight is becoming a serious here in Melbourne. I did a lot of research in the last few days and find out that many gardeners in my area experience similar issues. My tools are already disinfected, and the gardeners I hired arrived yesterday to assess the situation. 3 of the trees will go for sure, but I'm ready to sacrifice them if it means that the other 18 will survive. I too considered switching to more resistant trees, but my passion and my work are connected to apples and pears, and pears in particular are just a vulnerable species in general.
I am still considering the whole spray idea, I can't find an organic solution for this problem. I really hope the treatment they are about to perform tomorrow works and there won't me more trees infected. And I would recommend to anybody to be very vigilant, because this thing is quite unpleasant!
 

TimBr

Official Well Known Greeter
@Emily Poate, Thanks for the update, Emily. This is turning into an interesting, educational thread. Thanks for coming to the TreeBuzz forum with your questions in the first place.

Please, keep dropping in to let us know how things progress. I know this is a tough problem; I hope you experience success at stopping this disease in its tracks by being aggressive and by making the tough decisions.

Best wishes,

Tim
 

TimBr

Official Well Known Greeter
Hey, mrtree, great post! It looks like that fungicide you recommended allows the plants that it's used on to maintain their classification as being grown organically, if I'm reading things right. Very cool, if so, as it seems to speak to one of Emily's biggest concerns. Thanks for your post.

Tim
 

Emily Poate

New Member
Hey guys, thanks for the interest you're showing for my trees, I really appreciate it!
So, the problem is indeed fire blight and we already started treatments about 9 days ago. First the gardeners came and removed all the trees which were beyond saving and trimmed the trees which were only partially infected. The time period is not very good for battling fire blight, because the bacteria is spreading pretty quickly during fall and spring. If it was winter here it would be perfect and I would get rid of the problem in two weeks or so. But since it's fall here, I am a little screwed.

So, after they removed all the sick trees and branches, the big search for an organic solution started. First I checked this article - http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7414.html#MANAGEMENT . It provides detailed information on what fire blight is and how to get rid of it. Unfortunately it didn't answer how to get rid of the problem and still have an organic produce. So I kept digging and I found this article - http://www.tfrec.wsu.edu/pages/organic/fireblight . It applies mostly in the USA, but they mention that they can use streptomycin and oxytetracycline to control the problem, and the produce would still be considered organic, because these antibiotics are made from natural microorganisms, but then I noticed that they were about to forbid the usage in 2014.

Then I read this article - http://www.planetnatural.com/pest-problem-solver/plant-disease/fire-blight/ which considers liquid copper as one of the most natural remedies for this disease. Copper doesn't sound very natural to me, but I guess I don't have many choices in that matter. Anyway, I will continue my research and if I don't find anything better, I think I will go with the liquid copper.
@mrtree, thanks for the suggestion, I will find out more about this fungicide and will ask around if I can use it on fire blight.

If I find out anything new, I will let you know :)
 

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