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Ornamental & Tree Diseases

There are a lot of dead branches and twigs in my Bradford pear trees. I've been told they're they the result of fire blight. The dead growth is unsightly and leaving this diseased material in my trees can't be good for them. Is there anything I can do this summer to help my trees?

An essential part of the control program for many canker and dieback diseases, such as fire blight, involves pruning out infected branches. Removal of dead or dying branches and twigs will also reduce the amount of fire blight cankers you'll have to deal with next spring. This is important since these cankers are the primary sources of the bacteria which contribute to fresh outbreaks of disease on new growth. Thus getting rid of them is a good idea.

However, there's a "right way and a wrong way" to remove fire blight cankers, and the wrong way can actually contribute to more disease. The following pruning technique for fire blight is recommended. When possible, remove branches 6 to 10 inches below the last visible signs of infection. Clean and disinfect pruning tools between cuts to prevent spread of the fire blight bacteria over the rest of the tree and other trees you decide to prune. Bleach diluted to 10 percent strength or rubbing alcohol are good common disinfectants. Make a 10 percent bleach solution by adding 1 part bleach to 9 parts of water. Pruning tools should be washed and dried before storing to prevent corrosion. Bag and properly dispose of the diseased plant material. For additional information on fire blight of Bradford pears refer to a Plant Pathology Infobyte Fire Blight is a Hot Disease This Spring.