Amateur Gardening - - News -

Deal­ing with ap­ples and pears with fun­gal disease

Q Why are the ap­ples and pears on my fruit trees all scabby and what should I do to avoid this next year? Nelly Tully, Cooga, Ire­land A The fruits you de­scribe are suf­fer­ing from a fun­gal disease aptly called ap­ple scab, though it also af­fects pears.

T he symp­toms be­gin in spring, with olive green or brown­ish spots and blotches ap­pear­ing on leaves, cou­pled with a vel­vety ap­pear­ance while spores are be­ing re­leased. Later, the patches turn darker and some­time crack. Leaves are likely to fall early. Fruits are af­fected too and, to be hon­est, many do­mes­tic fruit trees across the coun­try are in­fected with scab to some de­gree. Most of us are able to carry out good pre­ven­ta­tive care and con­tinue to har­vest de­cent fruit.

Trou­ble starts when se­vere blem­ishes ren­der a large pro­por­tion of the crop al­most ined­i­ble. Black scabs on the skin pre­vent it from ex­pand­ing as the fruit grows, caus­ing splits and fis­sures through which in­fec­tions like rots can en­ter. Fruits be­come badly dis­torted and once dam­aged, won’t store.

Look hard and you’ll no­tice scabby patches on young stems and these, along with in­fected fallen leaves are where scab, or Ven­turia in­ae­qualis, over­win­ters. Air­borne spores are pro­duced in spring, which in­fect young leaves. En­cour­aged by wet, over­cast weather and con­gested growth, more spores de­velop and spread.

In older books, much was writ­ten on the use of fungi­cides no longer avail­able. Even if they were, few of us wish to douse our gar­dens in them nowa­days. The so­lu­tion lies in pre­ven­ta­tive mea­sures, or even grub­bing out sus­cep­ti­ble trees and re­plac­ing them with re­sis­tant va­ri­eties.

This seems harsh, but we took out sev­eral scab-af­flicted trees soon af­ter mov­ing into our cur­rent gar­den and never re­gret­ted it.

Ap­ple and pear va­ri­eties are quite lo­calised in their ori­gin and it pays to choose those that have a his­tory of grow­ing well in your area, es­pe­cially on the wet­ter, western side of the coun­try.

Two of the worst af­fected pears, show­ing typ­i­cal black patches that stop the skin from stretch­ing A pear tree in our gar­den suf­fers from scab, but most fruits are ed­i­ble and de­li­cious.

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