Fire blight

 
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PLANT PEST

Fire blight

Exotic to Australia

Features: A fast spreading bacterial infection of rosaceous hosts,
particularly apple and pear, affecting all parts of the tree

Where it’s from: Asia, Africa, North, Central and
South America, Europe and New Zealand

How it spreads: Importation of infected plants or plant propagation
material; local spread by wind, rain, insects, birds, vehicles, people,
and equipment

At risk: Plants in the family Rosaceae, including apple, pear,
hawthorn, quince, loquat, rose.

Trees with fire blight look burnt. Bruce Watt, University of Maine,
Bugwood.org

Report it

Keep it out

Fire blight (Erwinia amylovora) is a serious bacterial disease of pome fruit including apple, pear, quince, and loquat. It gets its name from the burnt appearance of affected plants. Symptoms of fire blight infection generally affects all parts of the plants from blossoms and leaves to branches and roots, eventually killing the tree.  There is no cure for the infection.

The disease spreads easily and rapidly since it can be spread by wind and rain as well as insects,  and by people, vehicles and equipment.

If fire blight established in Australia, many of our pome fruit crops would be at risk.

Importing goods

To keep fire blight out of Australia, never ignore Australia’s strict biosecurity rules.
Import shipments may need to be inspected, treated and certified, so before you import, check our Biosecurity Import Conditions system (BICON).

What to look for

  • New shoots and leaves that appear glassy and water soaked with an off-green colouring before turning brown or black.
  • Shoots and branches bent into a crook shape at the end.
  • Reddish brown streaks can appear in the sap wood beneath the bark.
  • Dry twigs, dead branches that appear burnt with dead leaves remaining on the tree.
  • Water soaked and dark sunken cankers.
  • Bacterial ooze on fruit.
Milky ooze on apple caused by fire flight. Alan L. Jones, CABI.
Dry leaves and twigs with crook at shoot tip (arrowed). Alan L. Jones, CABI
 

Where to look

Importers

Importation of infected plant material poses the greatest risk of the disease entering Australia.

Growers and home gardeners

Look out for trees with ‘burnt’ leaves, oozing fruit and dry twigs with a crook at the shoot tip.

Plants that can be infected include:

  • apple
  • pear
  • quince
  • loquat
  • plum
  • apricot
  • berries and
  • amenity hosts such as hawthorn, cotoneaster and firethorn.

What to do

If you think you have found plants with fire blight:

  • take a photo
  • do not disturb infected plants (this may be as simple as closing the doors on a shipping container or preventing access to an orchard).

Report it

Seen something unusual? Report it. Even if you’re not sure.

Read the detail

Last reviewed: 29 January 2021
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