Fruit-tree twig and blossom diseases - PDF

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					Fruit-tree twig and blossom diseases                                                                    GWF275
                                                                                           Updated February 2009

These fruit-tree diseases are all caused by the same fungus. Unfortunately there are no
spray treatments available and prevention is extremely difficult.

Q What diseases are we talking        Wither tip This mostly affects        Q What causes these diseases?
about?                                plums. First, leaves are infected,
                                      then the disease spreads back into
                                                                            A The fungus Sclerotinia laxa is
A Blossom wilt, twig blight, spur     the shoot, causing the whole tip      responsible. The very similar
blight, wither tip and brown rot,     to wither after wilting. It seems     S. fructigena is much less likely
which are all caused by the same      likely that the plum-leaf-curling     to be involved, although it is also
fungus. It’s a menace to fruit-       aphid lets the fungus into leaves     a cause of brown rot in fruit.
tree blossom and in wet years to      by puncturing the leaf surface as     They are sometimes referred to
twigs, going on to rot the fruit.     it feeds – the two often occur        as Monilinia fructigena or
   These diseases are all much        together. Cherries and almonds        M. laxa.
the same – the fungus damages         have also been known to suffer
new growth early in the season. It    from wither tip.                      Q Can you tell me more about
gets into flowers, causing them to
                                                                            this fungus?
wilt within two weeks of opening.     Spur blight The same happens to
Shoot infections follow and           the short, flower-bearing side-       A The fungus overwinters in
cankers form on shoots, twigs         shoots or spurs of plums and          cankers on the shoots, in
or spurs, girdling the bark and       related ornamental trees. Here,       mummified fruits still on the
causing leaves above the              the fungus grows into the main        branches or in fallen fruit. In
damaged area to die.                  branch and forms a canker round       fact, the mummified fruit seem
                                      the base of the spur, causing it      able to persist as sources of
Q How do I recognise these            to die.                               infection for several years. In the
                                                                            spring, spores are released which
                                                                            go on to cause blossom infections
A Blossom wilt On apple, peach        Q Can I mistake them for
                                                                            - they get to new sites on the
                                      anything else?
and cherry, especially ‘Morello’                                            breeze, by rain splash or carried
cherries, the blossom wilts within    A Bacterial blossom blights of        by insects. The spores multiply
two weeks of opening. Pears are       pears and, less often, of stone       quickly in the floral parts when
much less affected. Look out for      fruits can produce similarly wilted   the weather is wet, releasing
grey pustules on the flower           young shoots. In wet weather this     more spores which go on to infect
stalks. From there, the fungus        disease can be widespread. It         additional flowers.
enters the shoots and infects the     results in limp, water-soaked             At the same time, the fungus
twigs. Cankers result, cutting into   flowers hanging on the twig, and      spreads from the afflicted flower
the bark so that the whole shoot      damage to twigs and spurs.            on to the shoots and spurs, where
wilts. It looks as if the affected       Fireblight scorches whole          cankers develop. Look out for
parts have been scorched. Often       leaves and is more extensive than     tufts of fungal growth on these
the whole tree becomes covered        flower and shoot blights, affecting   cankers, about 3mm across and
with browned shoots.                  mainly pears and relatives such as    yellow (Sclerotinia fructigena) or
                                      pyracantha. Frost can also scorch     grey (S. laxa). The disease
Twig blight This refers to the        back blossom and shoots.              spreads from the cankers to the
death of twigs after the blossom-                                           fruit when the fruit is fairly large.
wilt phase.
This usually occurs only when        Q Can it be sprayed?                   there has not been much brown
there has already been bird,                                                rot that year, it is still worth
insect, hail or wind damage.
                                     A There are no fungicide               being vigilant, as the disease can
                                     treatments available to gardeners.     quickly become troublesome if
                                     However, spraying plums to keep        the weather favours it next year.
Q How do I control this fungus?      down aphids should help avoid          Pick up fallen fruit, and remove
A Cut out and burn or consign to     wither tip.                            shrivelled, mummified plums to
the dustbin all cankers and                                                 reduce the number of fungal
infected shoots, both during the     Q Can it be prevented?                 spores released into the garden.
summer and when doing the                                                      Unfortunately, it is
winter pruning. Cut out affected
                                     A Remove all infected fruit as         questionable how effective this
flowering shoots or spurs as soon    soon as you spot it to reduce the      type of control really is, as any
as you see them wilting in spring.   spread of the fungus. In winter,       source of infection missed will
                                     cut out and burn cankered twigs        produce large amounts of light,
                                     to reduce the number of disease        easily dispersed spores, further
                                     spores that overwinter. Even if        spreading the disease.

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