What causes my apple and pear trees to look like they have been burned with a torch?

A disease called fire blight, caused by a bacterium (Erwinia amylovora), has these symptoms. The causal bacteria are spread by wind-blown rain and insects. Fire blight is difficult to control in highly susceptible varieties. Avoid excessive nitrogen fertilizer. The blighted shoots and blossoms can be pruned out as they appear if you sanitize the pruning shears by dipping them in a 10 percent bleach solution or 70% isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) between cuts. Otherwise, prune the blighted shoots …

Table of Apple Cultivar Fire Blight Susceptibility

Fire blight is a destructive bacterial disease of apples and pears that kills blossoms, shoots, limbs, and, sometimes, entire trees. The disease is generally common throughout the United States wherever apples are grown. However, outbreaks are typically very erratic, causing severe losses in some orchards in some years and little or no significant damage in others. This table shows the fire blight resistance rating of numerous apple cultivars.

 
Apple cultivar Fire blight resistance rating (z) Apple cultivar Fire blight resistance

Fire Blight of Apple

Fire blight

Figure 1. Blossom cluster and adjacent shoot with fire blight. (Alan R. Biggs, West Virginia University)

Fire blight is a destructive bacterial disease of apples and pears that kills blossoms, shoots, limbs, and, sometimes, entire trees (Figs. 1, 2). The disease is generally common throughout the United States wherever apples are grown. Outbreaks are typically very erratic, causing severe losses in some orchards in some years and little or no significant damage in others.

Fire blight

Figure 2. Apple shoot with fire …

Which apple rootstocks are susceptible to fire blight?

Consider the relative susceptibilities of the scion and rootstock to fire blight when establishing new orchards. There is considerable variation among apple cultivars (and pear cultivars) in susceptibility to fire blight, although none are immune. Some cultivar/rootstock combinations are so susceptible to fire blight that investments in these combinations are extremely high risk. In the eastern United States, ‘Gala’ on M.26 is an example of a high-risk combination. For more information, read this article on Fire Blight of Apple.…

What diseases are problematic when planting apple trees in heavy soils?

Heavy soils are those that contain more clay particles relative to sand and silt components. The high clay content causes the soils to be less friable, making them “sticky,” and more dense, thus making them hard to work with. They often remain cold and wet in spring and need grit or coarse organic material to admit air and help roots remain healthy. Because of their tendency to be cold and wet for longer periods than lighter soils, there is an …