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On your next winter walk, check apples, pears, quince and other members of the rose family for signs of fireblight disease.

This bacterial disease does not attack roses, but it does affect many other members of that family.  Young trees can be killed quickly in just a few weeks.   All parts of the plant including flowers, fruit, stems, trunks, and roots can be infected.  Early detection and sanitation can help manage this disease. Look for wilted or curled stem tips and sunken discolored areas, known as cankers, on the stem. 

Remove and destroy infected stems by pruning at least 6 to 9 inches below the canker.  Disinfect tools between cuts by soaking them in a 1 part bleach 9 part water solution for at least 30 seconds.  

Reduce stress with proper care.  Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers that encourage lush succulent growth that is more susceptible to this disease.

A bit more information: Watch for other fireblight symptoms throughout the year.  Blossom blight appears shortly after bloom.  Infested flowers look watersoaked and quickly turn black or brown.  Shoot blight usually appears right after petals drop from the flowers.  The stem wilts, tip curves over like a shepherd’s crook and the stem turns brown or black as if it was burned. 


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