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Brown Spots and Curling Brown Leaves on Apple Trees--What's Wrong with Them?

 
Nicole Alderman
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I have a Braeburn, Liberty, Jonagold, Gravenstein, Gala, Honeycrisp and Antonovka apple trees. All of them have a few brown spots of their leaves. The Liberty, Jonagold, Gravenstein and Braeburn all have new growth that is turning brown and curling. Any ideas what's wrong with them and what I can do?

Currently, in their understory they have nasturtiums, grass (haven't had time to weed), birdsfoot trefoil, dandelions, some buttercup, strawberries and the Gravenstein has an echinacea and the Jonagold has a Calendula plant. There's also some thistles growing the Gravenstein.

Thanks for the help!
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Liberty Curling Leaves
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Braeburn Brown Spots Close-up
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Braeburn Curling Leaves
 
Eric Thompson
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Have they been watered?  Younger trees usually like a gallon of water soaking 2-3 times per summer to keep growing.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Those photos show what I suspect to be Fire Blight. The tell is how they look similar to having been near a fire. This is a serious disease of all members of the rose family. 

You will have to do some serious pruning (at least 3" below any infection) of all the affected areas then burn the pruned material in an area that is away from the trees.
 
Troy Rhodes
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I also vote for fire blight.  Some varieties are more resistant than others.


If you prune the damaged stuff off, and you should, treat it like it was a contageous disease, because it is.

So, disinfect the pruning shears between trees, and doubly careful before you use those those shears on unaffected plants.  Use a 3:1 ratio of water:bleach.  Here are more specific instructions for shears and saws and so on:

http://baker.ifas.ufl.edu/Horticulture/documents/DisinfectingPruningTools.pdf

 
Nicole Alderman
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Fire Blight?! Yikes!  I didn't think we got that here in the Puget Sound area (isn't it more of an Eastern US thing?). But, I did see that hot spring weather can cause it, and we did have an abnormally hot spring. But, wouldn't there be more symptoms than just the leaves if it were fireblight, or is it just now starting to grow? Also, wouldn't the symptoms have started in the spring--if I'm understanding correctly--it's point of entry is the blossoms? I didn't notice any problems with the blossoms, and my apples all look pretty blemish-free. I've also not noticed any oozing. But, I'm also not a very visual person, so I wouldn't put it past me to not notice something.

Could it also be something like a mineral deficiency? Part of me really hopes that's it, because it would sure be easier to manage, especially since fireblight can live in the roses and cane berries that I have!

As for watering, I haven't actually really watered the trees this year, but we've had a lot of good rain at good intervals. Our grass is still green, our pond is still full, and the "seasonal" stream that's usually dry by June still has a trickle of water in it, and it's August! It's been a weird weather year here, that's for sure.

But, I can try watering them and see if that helps!
 
John Weiland
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@Nicole A: "Could it also be something like a mineral deficiency? "

Nicole, is there a county extension office or professional orchard in striking distance of you?  Either of those may have someone who could make a positive ID for you and perhaps offer a recommendation.  Fireblight has had a lot of work done on it, but unfortunately the control measures also seem rather involved.  There do seem to be some organic options available.

And see:  http://www.tfrec.wsu.edu/pages/organic/fireblight
 
Eric Thompson
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We do have fireblight in this area, but it doesn't spread as badly as most places.  i usually find it to be more "striking" in symptom, like a completely brown or black limb from one precise point on the tree.
If the tips brown, then curl, then shrivel up, I would suspect water first.  You don't need irrigation, but trees could use a deep soak a few times during the dry summer.  A light rain is multiplied by a mulch around the tree, but even 1/2" is nothing compared to a full gallon or two at the base of a young tree..
 
Nicole Alderman
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Looking at the pictures of fireblight, I also noticed that they seemed to be more "striking," where as mine have leaf curl, brown spots, and dead leaves spread throughout the tree. On all my trees, there's only two branches that look all brown, dead and curly--the rest just have spots.

Looking around my property and at my other perennials, I noticed that a LOT of my different plants have brown spots: lilacs, plums, cherries, blueberries, red huckleberries, as well as the apples. Even my dandelions often have brown spots! is there a disease or nutrient missing that could do this to all the plants, or do they all just have their own special problems?

Here's some pictures of the other plants on my property:
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Lilac's brown spots
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Sad cherry tree leaves
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Blueberry Leaves
 
Nicole Alderman
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Oh! And here's some more pictures of my apple trees. This evening I went around and watered them all really thoroughly, and hopefully tomorrow it won't be too hot for my pregnant self to go and prune off the sad branches. But, when I prune, what do I do about the random leaves on otherwise healthy branches that are all brown and curled? Do I take off all the branch from that leaf on, or just pluck the leaf off?

Below is a picture of a jonagold apple (it has weird, faint striations on it)--the Jonagold is the most visibly affected of the trees. Next is a tiny apple on my braeburn tree--I really should have thinned the apples more, especially since this is the tree my husband accidently tried to kill last year (left it in the car in the sun, the root ball warpped in black plastic lying on the dashboard). And, a picture of the leaves on my honeycrisp apple.
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Jonagold apple (the tree that is most affected)
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Braeburn Apple, the sad little thing.
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Honeycrisp leaves. No leaf curling, just lots of brown spots
 
Bryant RedHawk
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To check for mineral defects the best method is to take soil samples and have them tested by an extension service.

Here are two sites for you to check out for fruit tree diseases.

Oregon fruit tree diseases

WVU index of fruit diseases
 
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