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Pears Fight Airborne Disease

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MEDFORD, Ore. — Pear growers are battling their worst nightmare.

Fire blight is an air-born disease that can be detrimental if left unattended.  It’s popular in pear trees and other ornamental trees.

This year plant experts say fire blight is especially bad because of the warm humid start to the growing season, and windy days early on.

Ron Meyer has been in the pear business his whole life.  He said these past few years have been the worst when it comes to fire blight.

“There were one to ten strikes in each tree,” he said.

In order to get rid of “epidemic” Meyer had to cut out all the infected limbs out of his tree.  He also treats his trees with antibiotics, but this year he said the fire blight became immune to one of his antibiotics.

“The bacteria enter through blossoms or they enter through injuries in the leaves and tender shoots,” said Dr. David Sugar, an Oregon State University plant pathologist.

Once it enters the tree, Sugar said there is no cure.  Pear growers notice the fire blight when leaves on one limb of their tree turn brown.

“The only thing we can do once we see the disease is to cut it out, and we try to cut at least 12 inches in advance of where we see the symptoms,” said Sugar.

The hot, drier weather also helps kill off the fire blight.

Overall, both Meyer and Sugar say this year will still be a good year for the pear.

“We’ll still have a decent crop, a little smaller than before this outbreak, but still a decent crop… and we will still have decent quality pears this year,” according to Sugar