It’s always something. This spring, calls came in about ornamental pears not doing so well — leaves were turning brown, dying and clinging on the tree.
This is caused by the bacterial disease fire blight, named for the scorched look it creates. Another characteristic of the disease is the “Shepherd’s crook,” which describes the look when twigs begin to wilt from the tip downward and curl.
Besides pears and apples, fire blight can affect 130 different species of plants such as Indian hawthorn, photinia, roses and strawberries. Not much to be done right now, if you have an infected plant. Treatment with fungicides or bactericides is only effective when plants are in bloom.
This winter, you can prune out the infected branches 8 inches below the damage. Also, avoid applying fertilizer because the disease favors new succulent flushes of growth.
Another problem people are having is grasshoppers. They seem to be everywhere and eating everything!
Weed control is the most effective way to decrease the number of grasshoppers in an area. If weeds are eliminated, the young hoppers will starve, and the adults will be discouraged from laying eggs in the area.
Of course, destroying the weeds can force the hungry grasshoppers to move to nearby crops or landscapes. First, use an insecticide to kill the grasshoppers in the weedy area or be ready to protect nearby crops from displaced grasshoppers. Floating row covers can be used to protect vegetables, flowers and small trees, unless it’s such a bad year they chew through the fabric.
Insecticides are most effective on grasshoppers when they are smaller and immature (without wings.) This is especially true for organic insecticides such as bait products containing spores of a protozoan called Nosema locustae.
Grasshoppers consuming the bait become infected with the organism, which kills the immature grasshoppers. Infected adults often survive but lay fewer eggs. There are several insecticides approved for use in the home landscape or in pastures. Our office can provide you with that information — 940-349-2892 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
What else is taking over? The absolute unthinkable for the arachnophobic: tarantulas. As scary and hairy as they may be, tarantulas are actually beneficial. Tarantulas are not aggressive to humans, nor are they likely to bite us. They do have a bit of venom though, so being bit would feel about like a bee sting. Like other spiders, they feast on insects. Now, if we could just get them to develop a healthy appetite for grasshoppers.
JANET LAMINACK is the horticulture county extension agent with Texas AgriLife Extension. She can be reached at 940-349-2883. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.