Fire blight is a devastating disease that predominately affects pears and apples, although pears are more susceptible. It is caused by a bacterium. It typically occurs in the early spring when temperatures are over 60 degrees, and the humidity levels are high with rain.
Fire Blight on Pear
Flowers and fruit can turn black and die. The disease runs down the branches causing the leaves to wilt and turn black, as well as the branches which start to look as if they have been burnt to a blackened crisp. During wet weather you may notice a white sticky liquid oozing from infected parts of the plant. Early on you may notice a shepherd’s crook at the end of the affected branches.
Shepherd's Crook on Apple
Treatment & Prevention
There are no treatments available to cure fire blight. The best thing to do is to be observant and prune out any diseased branches before they spread. Make sure you burn the diseased branches. The disease can spread quickly, so it is important that you deal with it as soon as you notice it. I had a beautiful producing red pear tree that had some fire blight damage, and I went away for five days. When I came back the tree was almost completely destroyed.
Fire Blight Damage
When you prune out diseased branches, make cuts at least 12 inches below the affected area and dip your pruning equipment into a bucket of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water between each and every cut to prevent further spread.
Fire Blight on Leaves
~ Phil Williams
Phil Williams is a permaculture consultant and designer and creator of the website foodproduction101.com. His website provides useful, timely information for the experienced or beginning gardener, landscaper, or permaculturalist. Phil's personal goals are to build soil, restore and regenerate degraded landscapes, grow and raise an abundance of healthy food of great variety, design and install resilient permaculture gardens in the most efficient manner possible, and teach others along the way.