Bartlett pear tree – fruit buds dropping off early every year.

(Question)

Hi.I live in Toronto and have 2 pear trees, one about 13 years old, and the other around 15 years old. They are about 4 ft. apart.  Each year I get lots of blossoms, and after the blossoms have dropped off, shortly thereafter my buds start dropping off.  I had about 50 buds between the 2 trees, and now I only have about 3 or 4 left.  I sprayed with dormant oil and lime mixture in mid November.  I fertilized it in early April, and  I also put down a full bag of topsoil around the base in early May. I still do not understand why my fruit is dropping off. Any leaves that had blight I picked off in May, and I keep the base clean. There are no bugs present. Any advise is greatly appreciated. I spoke with 2 or 3 nurseries, but got different answers. My neighbor’s pear tree has the same problem, and my other neighbor cut his pear tree down as it was never cared for.

 

 

 

(Answer)

The ability of your pear trees to produce fruit is dependent of several factors: your trees must be healthy, tended with good cultural practices, and require adequate pollination. You didn’t mention which variety of pear trees you own, but some varieties are more resistant to the more common diseases than others.

Fruit trees need full sunlight for optimum production. But, to keep your trees healthy during periods of drought (as the Toronto region experienced in the 2012 spring/summer), it’s a good idea to treat the roots with regular soaking. Also, adequate space must be provided to allow growth of full, healthy root systems.

Also, that ” full bag of topsoil” you spread under the trees, depending on the bag size, in spite of very good intentions, might have done more harm than good. All trees need regular oxygen that permeates the soil from the surface level, in order to carry out the various chemical processes that take place in plants to produce food. If too much soil is applied at any one time, the roots can possibly be “suffocated”, and deprived of oxygen, and the trees will suffer. And when trees suffer, they are weakened, and are more susceptible to other issues. Again, healthy fruit trees can better resist pest issues.

You didn’t mention what type of fertilizer you applied. Your trees are mature, and would benefit from either a water-soluble, or a granular fertilizer.  But ensure that you choose one that is high in phosphorus (the middle number on the packaging) which will promote an abundance of blossoms. Apply this fertilizer exactly according to the instructions, and no later than six weeks before the trees typically blossom. Fertilizing closer to blossoming can trigger too much leaf growth, which will likely make your trees susceptible to insect and fungal problems, which are very common— especially on pears and apples.

In reference to what you called “blight” on the leaves, and a propos of your neighbour’s tree having the same problem, it is  possible that your trees have contracted  Pear Trellis Rust, which is an airborne fungal infection. It’s not treatable in Ontario with any fungicide or pesticide.  You’re doing exactly the right thing by cleaning up the fallen leaves. Further,  to increase air circulation, and reduce moisture,  you can also prune out any dead, or diseased, wood.

Your pear trees are clearly very valuable to you, as you have been conscientiously consulting a variety of resources. When looking for answers to problems, we often look to pin the blame on just one issue.  But it is possible that  your pear trees are suffering from a combination of issues — that can very hopefully be amended, and rectified. Below are several links to more detailed research material. The first one is for the ISA (International Society of Arboriculture), with a very well-designed and informative  site, where you can readily find a tree care service, or search for a certified arborist in your Toronto area, who might assist you with a more positive diagnosis of the problem.

All the very best on improving your pear crop.

http://www.isa.org

http://www.isaontario.com/content/pear-trellis-rust-beech-scale

http://www.uri.edu/ce/factsheets/sheets/fruittreesfail.html

http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca

http://www.landscapeontario.com