What is Fire Blight?

Fire Blight Symptoms

Fire blight or fireblight is a contagious disease that affects many fruit trees and plants in the Rose family. It is known to be especially problematic to apple, pear, and crabapple tree owners. Fire blight is actually bacterial in origin, spreads through various methods, and is best to be treated properly and prevented before infection.

Once a tree is infected with fire blight, the infected parts look as if they had been through a fire of some sort and appear to be scorched or shriveled up and blackened. Infected areas can present themselves in many ways.

Branches die and leaves are brown/black, shriveled up, and appear as if they have been burned to a crisp. Blossoms may appear to be wet and fruit may look shriveled up also.

Fire Blight Prevention and Treatment

When it’s humid fire blight fruit may look like water droplets are on the surface, but these drops of bacteria are oozing out of the fruit.  Discoloring and shriveling are common symptoms in infected fruit trees.

Preventative measures include choosing trees that generally resistant to many diseases and pests.

Often times, you move into a new home and have a yard with fruit tree(s) already on your new property. If this is the case, it’s important to keep your trees, lawn and yard clean. Remove all broken branches and fallen fruits and leaves to minimize harboring pests and diseases.

It is best to cut off any areas that appear infected by fire blight. As it is highly contagious and easily spread, it is important to sterilize the tree once infected areas have been removed because at the point of removal, sap may likely still be infected with fire blight. Also, remember that any tree trimming tools should also be sterilized after fire blight removal and treatment so as not to spread it to any other trees or vegetation in the future.

There are chemical treatments available to help improve the health of your fruit trees and it is best to spray fruit trees during the winter when they are considered dormant. “Spraying fruit trees during the cool seasons, November through March, can help control pests that take up residence in the cracks and crevices, according to Ross Penhallegon, horticulturist with the Oregon State University Extension Service.”  Further, Penhallegon explains that it is more effective to spray in the dormant season than when the pests are more active in the warm or hot months.

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