I’ve discovered limb tips, fruit, and blossoms blackened by fire blight in my Bartlett pear tree. That means dealing with the disease quickly or losing tree.



Fire blight ravages a pear tree

Fire blight ravages a pear tree




While there are dozens of other types of fruit trees on the farmette, there are no other pear trees. Sadly, this one is in bad shape because of a widespread infection by the bacteria Erwinia amylovora.




Closeup of a healthy part of the pair tree

Closeup of a healthy part of the pear tree




The blight started last summer and, despite spraying to control it, the disease has overwintered in the bark of the tree to reappear with the emergence of blossoms this year. Disease spread is helped along by the bees.



Fire blight’s vicious cycle and must be broken if the tree is to survive. The life cycle of blight can be seen at a glance at http://nysipm.cornell.edu/factsheets/treefruit/diseases/fb/fb_cycle.gif



Treatment starts with a vigorous pruning of the affected limbs. That means cutting back twelve inches from the site of the blackened area of fire blight. The disease is highly contagious, so the cuttings must not be recycled or composted. Burning them is recommended.



Also, minimizing the amount of tree blight inoculum in the orchard is important as this disease can also spread to other pear trees, apples, quince, raspberries, and fire-thorn bushes.  Cornell recommends a regular spraying program using an appropriate bacteriocide to save fruit trees infected with fire blight.



Bartlett summer pears

Bartlett summer pears



The saddest thing of all for me is that the tree was once beautiful and healthy and (even now) is loaded with fruit. I hate to think of not being able to save this lovely pear tree. Since most pear cultivars are susceptible to fire blight, it might make sense for me to plant a Seckel Pear tree since it is less susceptible to this highly contagious disease that can destroy a single tree or ravage the entire orchard.




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