Extension Educator, Local Food Systems and Small Farms
I believe we've had as many days of 85 degree or higher temperatures this past May, as we did the entire year last year. It's really made plants respond, with the early corn seeming to grow inches a day.
The wet weather that we've seen the past month or more has also had effects on increasing opportunities for plant diseases on many plants. Among these would be strawberry leaf diseases, fire blight on apples and pears, scab and rust on apples, powdery mildew on bluegrass, plus others.
About the only action home owners have to deal with these diseases is a preventative application of fungicides, beginning early in the season. The past three springs have been extremely wet, which is very beneficial to many diseases as most pathogens require moisture to spread. Some pathogens prefer cool weather, while others prefer hotter. It just depends upon the specific disease.
We've had several calls of late from individuals who have noticed the terminal ends of their pear or apple tree turning brown. This includes the leaves, branch and any fruit. This is fire blight. Many pears and certain apple varieties are susceptible, and we've had excellent conditions the past two years for this disease to spread. The telltale sign is the rather fast browning of the terminal ends of branches. Unfortunately, there is little a homeowner can do, other than prune out those dead areas. However use caution to minimize the potential spread of the disease. Cut back 12 inches from where you see the last discolor on the branch. And then dip the pruners in a 10% Clorox bleach solution to kill any pathogens to prevent spread.
Strawberry leaf diseases and accompanying fruit rots are abundant as well, again due to the abnormally wet weather. A good fungicide spray program would have prevented many of these concerns. Another good prevention is a straw mulch to prevent the berries from contacting the soil, which carry over some diseases. Some of these pathogens infect the developing fruit very early, while others can infect as the fruit mature.
We have suggested disease and insect spray programs for homeowners for many home fruit plantings. Contact us for more information at 217-223-8380.