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Garden Pests Series: E…

Thoughts and musings

Garden Pests Series: E…

Lewis | March 31, 2015 | 0 Comments

…is for Erwinia amylovora.

So far, we feel our Garden Pests Series of blog posts has proven to be quite popular! It’s certainly been a hit on our social media websites, and here’s hoping this continues until the series’ conclusion. So far, we’ve looked at different insects, parasitic organisms, and even a household pet! In this case, though, we will be exploring fireblight, a contagious disease of which Erwinia amylovora is the pathogen that is the cause. It is of serious concern, so it is definitely worth you knowing about it if you don’t already, especially so if you have pear trees, apple trees, hawthorns and/or roses in your garden. So get your hands on a cup of tea and have a good old read below!

As mentioned, fireblight affects pears/apples and related ornamental plants, hawthorns and roses. The symptoms differ between these different species. Leaves affected by the disease will turn a brown colour and drop from their tree, blossoms will wilt and die during their traditional flowering time and fruits will discolour and become wrinkled. The term ‘fireblight’ describes the appearance of the disease; discoloured, scorched and wrinkled affected areas quite literally look like they have been blighted by fire. An indication that the disease is present in all cases is that sometimes a slimy white substance may excrete from the affected area.

It was first recorded as an outbreak in Britain during the 1950s, and it is widely thought to be indigenous to North America, from where it has spread to the majority of the world. The severity of the disease cannot be taken lightly:

  • It is not thought to be present in Australia, and is the main reason for a trade embargo set by the country on  apples from New Zealand;
  • When optimum conditions are ‘enjoyed’, fireblight can enjoy an entire orchard during a single growing season; and,
  • It is a notifiable disease in Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, so as result, any potential or confirmed outbreaks have to be reported to Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate of the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, a UK Government body.

The aforementioned white slime is what contains the Erwinia amylovora bacteria, which spreads to other plants via insects, birds and small animals. It can also be transmitted with garden tools, through water splashes during rainfall and watering as well as many other mechanical ways. When it has infected a plant, fireblight can quickly spread through a plant’s vascular system and as result, the plant itself can die within just a few months. Those without an avid interest in gardening may think this is more of problem for commercial fruit farmers, but it is something that all gardeners should be wary and vigilant about.

There are no chemical treatments for fireblight; although I think chemical spraying isn’t always necessary, this may be a case of this fact being a sad shame, as it is very dangerous disease. However, there are some things you can do if you see a plant suffering from fireblight. If you see any infected parts of a plant, from leaves to branches, remove them and burn them to stop further spreading. Furthermore, as it can be easily transmitted using gardening tools, it is important to sterilise these with a bleach solution. Thirdly, avoid planting trees from susceptible areas.

It seems, with these tips being more reactive than proactive, that this will only help control a ravenous disease before an effective prevention method or chemical is produced or manufactured. But don’t be disheartened or let the potential of fireblight stop you from gardening to your heart’s content. We’re only ensuring you’re aware of it!

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