The small town of Moraga in Contra Costa County, has always been known for its delicious pears, particularly the Bartlett variant; so it’s not surprising that the town took the news of a regional ‘fire blight’ infestation last October very seriously. To curb the disease, citizens asked for volunteers to help with the pruning. The San Jose Mercury News explains how this bacterial disease reached Moraga’s local pear industry.


Kenny Murakami, owner of the Moraga Garden Center nursery, follows regional horticultural trends closely. He said fire blight is always present to some degree in the area, but it has been more prevalent throughout the entire region this year.


“This year is particularly bad,” Murakami said. “The rainfall we got this year was during the blooming season, and the trees were weak and stressed to begin with because of the drought. The timing of rain was perfect for development of the disease.

Home gardeners and tree farmers in California agree that fire blight is one of the most serious threats they’ll ever face. The disease is caused by a bacterium called Erwinia amylovora, and leaves behind blackened leaves, shriveled fruits, and wilted flower stems that appear as if they were scorched by fire, hence the name.

Unlike other tree diseases, fire blight can only be treated by pruning or removing the affected parts– something a professional tree service in Palo Alto, like Bay Area Tree Specialists can help with. These experts offer pruning services that can not only rid trees of harmful bacteria, but also help in maintaining and beautifying gardens, lawns, and landscapes.

The bacteria causing this disease is simply attracted to pome fruit trees like pears, apples, and crabapples, although certain ornamental trees like Red Spires have some level of resistance against it. As a trusted arborist from Palo Alto will tell gardeners and tree farmers, fire blight is also more common on pear variants that bloom late in season, so it may be wise to adjust planting schedule accordingly.

Even without the fire blight, pear trees and other quinces will still need to be pruned in order to improve their flowering and fruiting, something Moraga residents need to do as soon as the disease is contained, as the next Pear and Wine Festival is slated for 2015. Pruning is also necessary to prevent problematic and/or potentially dangerous tree branches from causing harm, considering that 30 people die from falling branches in the U.S. every year. With the help of seasoned tree care specialists, it would hopefully also be enough to save Moraga’s pear orchards.

(Source: Moraga’s iconic pear orchards in danger, San Jose Mercury News, October 14, 2014)