Repeat of Fire Blight in 2013???

Fire blight is a bacterial disease that attacks only members of the rose family. Apples and pears are two of its most common victims. We’ve seen it forever on high-quality table pears like Bartlett fruiting pear. What made 2012 so amazing was that we also saw it attack ornamental pears. Honestly, in all of my years of gardening in Texas, I had never seen it bother the non-fruiting types like Bradford ornamental pears — until 2012.

About mid-April last year, fire blight attacked all manner of pears from one end of the state to another. Single trees had as many as 50 to 200 branch tips blackened and dead at one time.

Normally, we tell you to cope with fire blight by pruning out the affected tissues. You must also disinfect your pruning tools by dipping them into a solution that’s 90 percent water and 10 percent chlorine bleach. However, that pruning was virtually impossible last year, due to the magnitude of the onslaught, also due to the heights of some of the branches.

So, that takes us back to Plan A, which involves spraying your trees preemptively. The disease is spread during peak bloom, so that’s the time you need to apply agricultural streptomycin spray to the trees — flowers and all.

You try your best to prevent fire blight. You certainly can’t cure it. But, when needed, you can prune and remove it. Let’s aim for prevention.

Pears in South Texas will be in bloom sometime in February (before our next e-gardens), hence this early warning.

Posted by Neil Sperry • January 30, 2013