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John Fulton

John Fulton
Former County Extension Director

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In The Backyard

Horticulture columns and tips done on a timely basis
brown rot

Dieback in Cherry Trees and Other Stone Fruits

Posted by John Fulton -

Many have been concerned with cherry, plum, and even peach trees showing dead twigs and branch tips this year. It looks like fire blight has affected trees in this group, and even the ornamental trees in the stone fruit group. However, fire blight is confined to a different fruit group containing apples and pears. Instead, the cherry trees are most likely infected with brown rot.

Brown rot is caused by a fungus, where fire blight is caused by bacteria. Both diseases cause damage by blighting blossoms, killing shoots, and causing branches to die because of cankers which stop the flow of sap to branch ends. Brown rot also causes direct fruit damage, which can result in "mummies." These are dried, shrunken fruit which clings to the trees. This fungus lives in the mummified fruit, and in the cankers it forms on limbs and twigs.

Removing the mummies, and pruning out the diseased wood are the starting points for some control. Pruning is best done during dormancy, and disinfecting equipment between cuts is recommended. Sprays with a preventative fungicide, such as captan, are recommended when blossoms open, at full bloom, and when blossom petals fall. Be sure to check pesticide labels for appropriate use on fruit trees, and combination products with insecticides (such as home fruit tree sprays) should not be sprayed during bloom to protect bee populations.

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