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The English Apple Man


10th Feb 2017 - Combating Canker

Canker is almost certainly the most challenging tree health aspect of apple production..

Canker can be devastating and is prevalent in most apple orchards, with some varieties very prone; Gala the most popular apple grown in England is particularly prone; Kanzi and Jazz (both have Gala as a parent) are also very challenged by Canker.


Its not just apples; Cherries are also notoriously prone to canker; 'at a summer farm walk around a large cherry growing farm, the grower remarked that he has to replace approximately 5% of the trees every year due to canker infection; with a projected life of 20 years, he said; "that means 'statistically' every tree may be replaced during the orchards lifetime"


Not surprisingly research into overcoming canker is high on the activities of scientists at East Malling Research (EMR) and in similar institutions world wide.


At the 2017 BIFGA Technical Day in late January, Dr. Robert Saville - Research Leader and Plant Pathologist updated delegates on the research into Canker being carried out by himself and his colleagues at EMR.


Below - extract from AHDB project into Canker


Neonectria ditissima, the causative agent of European apple canker has been increasing in significance on a global scale. As part of a larger body of work focusing on canker we aim to examine if N.ditissima resides as an endophyte in the host before switching to a pathogenic phase when the host experiences abiotic stress, i.e. during the establishment phase of newly planted orchards


AHDB: Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board AHDB is a statutory levy board and is funded by farmers, growers and others in the supply chain.


Robert Saville reviewed the key factors in canker development:


Inoculum: Conidia, Ascospores

Infection: Wounds, Conditions (wet weather high risk)

Origins of infection: Local Spread, Nursery infection

Host Range: Apple and Pear, Other woody species

Varietal susceptibility: Gala, Kanzi, Jazz (among many)

Losses due to canker: Vigour, Pruning, Tree death, Fruit rot


Robert outlined research into reducing canker within the tree system using injection into sap stream.


Adding impact to his presentation, Robert used an analogy with human injection treatments.





Tree injection systems:


Treatment categories: Fungicides, Biologicals, Defence elicitors, Plant health promoters


Evaluation of biological soil amendments to improve tree health and establishment:

Arbuscular mycorrhiza (AMF)

Plant growth promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR)




Evaluated at two stages;

Nursery phase:

Production of rootstocks in stool bed

Stronger plant - more resistance

Pre-colonised with beneficial


Newly established orchard:

Reduce abiotic stress

Latent infection doesn't express



Experiment 1; Curative effects


Robert demonstrated how he measures expansion of existing Canker by select a tree with existing trunk canker, measuring the area, treat and assess the change in lesion area.



Below: % Increase in Canker Lesion Size (7 months after treatment)


Controls = Orange: Fungicide = Red: Defence elicitor = Blue: Fungicide + Defence Elicitor = Mauve: Biological/plant health promotor = Green:




Robert Saville also demonstrated the trial into improving quality of rootstocks.


Below: left; roots treated with mycorhiza before planting - and - right; rootstock stool beds



Below: illustration of rootstock 'improvement' programme



Endophytes = Microorganisms which live within plant tissue without causing apparent disease symptoms - compare with Gut microbes



For years we have theorised about how canker gets into our trees: via the nursery? - via the local orchard environment? - From the soil? - we know how the infection is spread in wet conditions, by mechanical damage to trees, leaf abscission etc.


Below: Beneficial bacteria for human use....


There is a strong possibility that clever young scientists like Robert Saville are 'on the right track' and a better understanding and control of canker is 'on the horizon' - "lets hope so"


That's all....until next week...


Take care


The English Apple Man