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Extension Bulletin 1013

BACTERIAL CANKER OF PRUNUS


Bacterial or Pseudomonas canker
causes serious injury to flowering and
fruit-bearing cherries and other species
of Prunus.
The most conspicuous symptoms of
the disease are cankers, gumming, and
dying back of branches and twigs. In
most cases, heavy gumming is
associated with cankers on the branches
and twigs. Cankers may also appear
on the trunk. Typical cankers are
much longer than they are broad, but a
canker may eventually girdle an
infected limb. Girdling may bring on
yellowing and falling of leaves.
Generally, leaf yellowing and leaf fall do
not occur until late summer.
Gumming is not a conclusive
diagnostic measure of this disease,
since stone fruit trees produce gum from
other causes, including infections by
other organisms, damage by insects,
poor growing conditions, and mechanical
and winter injury.
Cankers develop on infected limbs
and branches during the winter and
early spring. As growth begins in the
spring, a callus layer forms around
the edge of the canker. Although
most of the bacteria in the canker die,
some survive in the summer.
Bacteria ooze from the edges of
cankers following 30 minutes or
more of rain, and new infections occur
at the base of bud scales. New infec-
tions continue to occur during rainy
periods in the fall. Cool,
wet weather increases spread of in-
fectious organisms from cankers to bud
scales. Carried in water, the
bacteria enter the plant through
natural openings or areas.
Control of this disease is often difficult
or impossible. This bacterial infection
can spread (systemically) throughout
the plant's entire system, and may not
be confined to the visibly cankered
areas.

Cooperative Extension College of Agriculture and Home Economics Washington State University Pullman
Control
Growers have reported inconsis-
tent resul ts from use of control
sprays. Copper fungicides, in addition
to controlling fungi, are active in
controlling bacterial diseases.
Fungicides that can be used are
Kocide 101 on cherries, basic cop-
per sulfate (Microcop) on apricots
and peaches, and basic copper car-
bonate on apricots. Make the first
application in October, prior to
heavy fall rains, and the second in
January.
Growers need to use proper pruning
and plant sanitation practices to
control this disease, whether using
sprays or not. Prune out smaller
branches with cankers. Remove
cankers on large limbs and trunks
by cutting away bark around the
edges of infected areas. Use sharp
tool s, and l eave margi ns of the
wound smooth and neat. Treat the
wound wi th a wound dressi ng as
soon as possible after cutting.
Sterilize all tools used in pruning
COOPERATIVE EXTENSION
Washington State
University
and tree surgery after pruning each
tree. Thoroughly sponge all tools
wi th 70% denatured al cohol or a
10% solution of chlorine bleach.
Where practical, sterilize pruning
tools after each cut. Do not wait until
the normal dormant pruning season
to prune for disease control. Complete
disease control pruning during dry
weather, prior to fall rains that activate
the bacteria.
Burning cankers to cauterize them
is a method which comes from New
Zealand. Tree fruit owners use a
propane torch to cauterize cankers on
the trunk and larger branches. They
direct flames on the canker until the
underlying tissue begins to crackle
and char (5 to 20 seconds). Treatment
must extend to the outer canker
margins, where active bacterial
infection occurs. Treated cankers are
inspected in 15 to 20 days. Cankers
should be heated again if the
disease continues to show activity
beyond the burnt area. Cauterizing
should take
place in early spring, before bloom,
when the bacteria are active, and
the cankers are enlarging. Cankers
observed in the fall should be
cauterized immediately to prevent
spread of the disease during cool,
rainy fall and winter weather.
Several months following treatment,
charred tissue will slough off, leaving
a well-formed callus. This method
has been tested on apri cots, sweet
cherri es, and peaches i n New
Zeal and, and on pl ums i n
Washi ngton. Control measures
outlined above sometimes have little
influence on disease development
because of systemic infections.
Variety selection is an important
way to prevent occurrence of this
di sease. Avoi d sweet cherr y
varieties Royal Ann, Bing, Lambert,
and Van, which are highly suscep-
ti bl e. Corum, Sam, and Sue are
tolerant, and have been grown com-
mercially without serious losses.
Prepared by Ralph S. Byther, Extension Plant Pathologist, WSU Puyallup.

Use pesticides with care. Apply them only to plants, animals, or sites listed on the label. When mixing and applying pesticides, follow all
label precautions to protect yourself and others around you. It is a violation of the law to disregard label directions. If pesticides are
spilled on skin or clothing, remove clothing and wash skin thoroughly. Store pesticides in their original containers and keep them out of
the reach of children, pets, and livestock.

The law requires that pesticides be used as the label directs. Uses against pests not named on the label and low application rates are
permissible exceptions. If there is any apparent conflict between label directions and the pesticide uses suggested in this publication,
consult your county Extension agent.

Issued by Washington State University Cooperative Extension, Larry G. James, Interim Director, and the U.S. Department of
Agriculture in furtherance of the Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914. Cooperative Extension programs and policies are consistent with
federal and state laws and regulations on nondiscrimination regarding race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, and
gender preference. Trade names have been used to simplify information; no endorsement is intended. Revised February 1992. A