Emergency Late Apple Pruning for Canker Control

I wouldn’t normally prune an apple tree this late in the season, but yesterday on the Plot #79 orchard I spotted a problem that required urgent remedial action.

Our ‘Wareham Russet’ (a.k.a. ‘Tudball Russet’) tree hasn’t been the best performer in the orchard. Last year I noted bitter pit throughout the tree’s fruitlets, none of which reached maturity. And yesterday, noticing that the tree seemed to be putting on significantly less new leaf than most of the others on the plot, I took a closer look and found another problem.

Apple canker. Identifiable by the brown, sunken patches developing on the branches and stems of one particular section of the tree. Not something I’d noticed when I carried out my tree inspections earlier in the year and dealt with another canker problem on a different tree, so either I’d missed it, or it had flared up since then.

Time for the secateurs and pruning saw: I gradually cut back affected sections of the tree, following the brownish staining in the woody tissues down towards the trunk.

I stopped cutting when I’d removed the entire section, flush to the trunk itself, hoping that it would be enough to control the canker.

There are still a few visible brownish patches, but hopefully the canker hasn’t spread down into the trunk itself. If it has then the entire tree may have to go, which would be a real shame, as this is exactly the sort of heritage variety that I’m most interested in growing and preserving.

Although if I do cut the trunk right back to reach healthy wood I could either leave it and hope the Wareham re-grows in time, or top-graft onto it; either another variety, or a healthy section of the same tree, if there’s clean scion wood available when I do the work.

Fingers crossed that the tree’s health improves this season and strong growth resumes.

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