Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

September 12, 2019
Last spring’s generous moisture has caused Fire Blight to appear in trees

Editor’s note: “A Better Life” is a weekly column by the USU Extension – Tooele Office that focuses on a variety of topics intended to enhance quality of life. 

I’ve been getting a lot of calls about Fire Blight this summer, so thought I should write something about it and what you can do if you have it or have trees that are in danger of getting it. 

Fire Blight is a disease caused by the bacterium, Erwinia amylovora. Pear trees are highly susceptible to it followed by apple trees. Other plants can get it too, but it is most likely to be seen in pear and apple trees. 

The bacteria is spread within and between plants by wind-driven or splashing moisture and by pollinating bees and other insects. We always see an increase in fire blight when we have a wet spring. This year has been by far the worst I can remember in 14 years. 

What does Fire Blight look like? Most people notice the disease after it has done its damage. It turns the leaves and stems black. Sometimes you will see the tips of branches curled in a shepherd’s crook shape. It also produces oozing cankers on branches and other plant tissue. If you see oozing it is in the active stage. 

What can you do about Fire Blight? If you could detect it early enough, you could prune it out. But who is going to climb a 40-foot high tree to look for it? There are sprays that can be applied in the early spring, but how do you spray a 40-foot tree? It’s a difficult problem. Fruit growers have management plans to deal with fire blight because it can be devastating for them, but homeowners get blindsided because they are unaware that the disease even exists.  

One of the things you can do is plant trees that are less susceptible to Fire Blight. The ornamental pear has been over planted. It is a common street tree all over the country and justifiably so. It has great spring and fall color — until it gets Fire Blight. 

If your trees have the disease, you should look at this fact sheet from my colleague Marion Murray. It is titled: “Fire Blight Annual Management Guide.” It will give you all the details I didn’t have time or room to write. Here is the link for the fact sheet:

That is too ridiculously long of a link. Instead, just Google the author and title.

Linden Greenhalgh is the county director of the USU Extension – Tooele County office, which is located inside the Tooele County Health Department Building, 151 N. Main, Tooele. The phone number is 435-277-2400.

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