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May 27, 2017

How to Deal With Brown Rot on Fruit

brown rot on apple

Brown rot on Apples and Pears

If you’ve noticed soft, squidgy brown patches on your apples and pears, whether these are just harvested or currently in store, the chances are that this is the aptly named ‘Brown rot’ .  Caused by a species of the Sclerotinia fungus , brown rot is a common and damaging problem.

What Causes Brown Rot

Notice the white pustules
Notice the white pustules

The spores are produced in vast quantities and are expelled from the numerous tiny raised creamy-white spots or pustules that you’ll notice on the brown patches. These pustules are almost always arranged in neat concentric circles and as soon as they are ripe the spores can  be spread by water splash, rain and wind.  Luckily, there is one good thing about this fungus, it seems to be incapable of attacking a  fruit which is not already damaged – so fruit damaged by birds pecking, wasps, codling moth, splitting due to erratic moisture levels  or attacked by the apple scab fungus are the ones which then succumb to brown rot. This means that for next year’s crop you need to do everything you can to avoid these common problems (and don’t worry I’ll be passing on lots of advice to help you out!)

How to Prevent Dry Rot Spreading

Right now you need to regularly check fruit in store and remove any which is showing even the very earliest signs of brown rot or any form of damage at all.  The infection spreads really rapidly , so I suggest that you check stored fruit at least once a week.

brown rot apple
Mummified apple still on tree

It is also essential to check all the trees, a job which becomes easier as the leaves fall because this time you’re looking  for mummified brown rot infected fruits.  In some cases infected fruits don’t fall from the tree but remain hanging on the branches, wizened, dry and darker brown but still with those spore-bearing creamy-white pustules.  Mummified fruits often withstand all the windy and rainy weather that autumn and winter throws at them and then, the following year  they act as a source of spores to allow the new crop of fruits to be at risk. So, grab a long bamboo cane, broom handle or long-arm pruner and knock or cut these fruits off the tree. Then when they’re all at ground level, collect them and any soft fruits off the ground and bin or burn them.

About The Author

Profile photo of Pippa

With a BSc in Botany and a further degree specializing in protecting plants from pests and diseases Pippa spent 11 years working for The Royal Horticultural Society at their garden in Wisley, advising gardeners about their gardening problems. More recently Pippa has become a well-loved and respected TV and Radio broadcaster and a prolific writer, with a host of best-selling gardening books to her name. Pippa regularly gives gardening talks and lectures, worked as the horticultural consultant for the ITV murder mystery series 'Rosemary and Thyme' and in 2007 was awarded an honorary Doctorate.

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