IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Do your part in the fight against Fireblight disease

Spring is in the air.  Along with this comes the planning for the business of programs for keeping our trees healthy.

The following is a method that can decrease the need for spray use in the area.

It involves the removal of dead and abandoned fruit trees. While the solution is simple, it is a hard one to apply, as many of these trees sit on properties owned by absentee landlords or property owners who neglect to look after them.

I am looking for groups or individuals who would like to work toward implementing a program to work at this removal process.

For several years now, local nurseries have been fighting an increasingly difficult battle with a nasty plant disease commonly known as Fireblight.

Brought on by the bacteria, Erwinia amylovora, it causes infected limbs to suddenly wilt back and blacken and can rapidly kill an otherwise healthy tree.

Common hosts to the disease are apples, pears, hawthorns and mountain ash.

Since our nurseries grow significant numbers of these trees, an outbreak could have a serious impact on our local economy.

Fireblight gets its name from a symptom common to all infected hosts: a burnt, black appearance of infected twigs and branches that often distort into a “shepherd’s crook.”

Infection most often occurs during bloom, when insects, pollinators included, carry bacteria from previously infected plants to newly opened blossoms.

However, pruning wounds made when infection risk is high offers bacteria another entry point, almost anytime during the growing season.

Unchecked and untreated, Fireblight can ravage an orchard or nursery like wildfire.

Nurseries and orchards employ a number of methods to help reduce the risk of infection, as well as limit the impact that an outbreak may have.

These methods include cultural, physical, biological and chemical controls, used appropriately and in tandem to affect the best outcomes.

However, no amount of effort can limit the risk imposed from outside the orchard or nursery without the public’s understanding and help.

In our valley, abandoned fruit trees have become the major source of infection for nursery-grown trees and fruit orchards.

The public could help reduce the need to protect healthy trees with chemical pesticides by simply removing dead/diseased trees and learning to properly care for ones that are healthy.

Like our pets and domesticated animals, plants and trees in our landscapes benefit greatly from our care and attention.

Through soil conditioning, watering, fertilizing and pruning, we are able to provide favourable conditions for plants, where none might otherwise exist.

And that is where the benefits of shade and food come at a cost to us.

Keeping plants and trees healthy requires that we pay attention to their needs, seek solutions to their problems, ask for advice when we do not know and, most importantly, do what is necessary when it is needed.

There is no shortage of expertise available – some free and some for a fee – to assist you with all plant and tree issues.

I am working with the owners of both Advance and Bron & Sons nurseries, as a crop protection consultant and as the director of Area D, I am working on risk-reduction solutions for Fireblight – we are looking for the public’s support.  Healthy trees are important to our community, aesthetically, environmentally, and economically, and it is up to all of us to help keep it that way.

Contact me, Irene Perepolkin RDKB Director Area D at 250-442-3817 or by email

– Irene Perepolkin is the director of Area D for the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary