A fireblight strike on an apple tree.
Fireblight has reared its ugly head again in the orchard. Numerous hours have been spent trying to control this destructive disease. Fireblight is caused by the Erwinia amylovora. This bacterium overwinters in the wood of the trees. During the spring, it spreads by rain, bees, aphids or other insects. Humid conditions, rain, and hail promote disease development and spread.
This disease commonly infects flowers at bloom, killing the flower and gaining entrance to the tree. Infections can spread rapidly. When the bacteria gets into the tree’s inner bark it runs down the limb at a rapid rate. Once infected with this bacterium the blossoms and branches begin to wither and turn black and looks as if they were scorched by fire. Thus, the name “fireblight.” Fireblight will kill young trees if it enters the bark of the central leader. As the progression of the disease begins to slow, it forms a canker which sometimes oozes an orange-brown liquid.
Control of fireblight is not easy. Antibiotics and biological control agents are used during bloom to reduce flower infections. Once in-season, infected wood must be removed by pruning. Pruning cuts must be made below the infected tissue into healthy wood. After each cut, the pruners must be cleaned – we typically use 10% bleach water. The intention of pruning is to reduce the spread of the disease from tree-to-tree as well as reduce the over-wintering innoculum. Resistant varieties are also another way to manage the disease. These varieties slow the rate of disease spread.
Being located in southeastern Indiana, we have a lot of humid and rainy conditions – both during bloom and in-season. Our orchard also contains over 25 varieties, which means we have both susceptible and resistant varieties. This creates challenges in managing this disease across our operation.
A row of apple trees infected with fireblight.
The same row of trees after the strikes were pruned out.
The past several weeks have been spent maintaining the orchard. Weed control is always an issue for us. The mild winter and warm spring encouraged growth and development of this unwelcome vegetation. The seeds that dropped into the earth last fall did not freeze and suffer winter-kill since the winter was mild. With the temperatures in February and March above normal, well, you can about guess the rest of the story. There are many herbicides available on the market for growers to purchase, some more harsh than others, but we continue our practice to use minimal applications of chemical weed control. We have noticed a comeback of red earth worms and night crawlers in our soils since we have practiced limited usage of herbicides. Worms make soil more fertile and thus, less commercial fertilizers are needed. This, however, doesn’t happen overnight and remains an ongoing venture. So, to try to gain control of the weed situation, we are hitting the orchard areas now with weed eaters.
We did experience below freezing temperatures about two weeks ago. We registered 26 degrees in the lower orchard for about an hour. There is some damage to the apples in that area but a small percentage. The fruit that is affected from the freeze is damaged in appearance only, probably will be just slightly misshapen where the frost settled on it. Time will tell the story as the season progresses.
Recent storms have inundated us with rain and windy weather. We almost needed a canoe to get into the orchards these past two weeks. We keep our fingers crossed when the area weather predictions include storms. Hail is not something we want to see at this point. Not too many customers like their fruit to be “ice kissed,” a positive way of referring to hail damage. So far, so good, no hail.
The newly planted orchard is progressing quite nicely. The new trees are putting on good growth and we cultivate them often to encourage further development. We continue to formulate our plans for this future “pick-your-own” apple orchard. We are looking forward to the opportunity that this venture will offer to our customers and their families.
We will have peaches this year unless we experience an unexpected catastrophe. The cold temperatures experienced several weeks ago do not appear as having done any damage to the fruit. So, yes, there will be peaches available.
Recent delving into the family ancestry has revealed some interesting facts about our involvement in the orchard business. As of now, trying to make an organized compilation of it. Will try to have an update soon about how the hands of fate can impact people’s lives.
Photo of the orchard after pruning and stacking brush.
It has been a few weeks and a March update is due. Continued pruning took us through the entire month of February. The weather was exceptionally good with the month’s temperatures as one of the warmest in local record keeping. Pruning and cleanup are completed in the apple orchards and all looks good for spring bloom. While pruning in the peach orchard continues, it is safe to say we are rounding third and heading for home in peach orchard pruning and cleanup. It is always a great feeling of accomplishment when the pruning equipment is stored away for the season. Really, looking forward to it. Continue reading
Holiday celebrations are now history, decorations stored away and we are on to another year. Enough “down” time and starting to think about how to make 2017 a better year. We have attended several trade shows and horticultural seminars in the past several months. Continue reading
Peach harvest has been completed. While we had planned to offer peaches to our customers for a little while longer, the high humidity, heavy rains and intense summer heat created too many adverse conditions. Peaches actually rotted on the tree because of summer diseases, especially brown rot. Not picking peaches now but instead we have moved the picking ladders into the apple orchard. Continue reading
Peaches have been the main focus in the orchard for the past three weeks. We have finished picking several of the early varieties and now are picking Canadian Harmony and Harold’s Beauty. Next week the Madison will be picked. This variety is a favorite for home canning and baking. The peach has a bright yellow flesh and is a free stone peach. Free stone meaning the pit is easily removed when canning or baking. All the varieties of peaches planted in the orchard are free stone peaches but we are finding that the unusually wet conditions that we are experiencing are affecting some of the characteristics of the peaches. Continue reading