Fire Blight on new Kieffer pear

bobbo_w(8a Garland, TX)April 15, 2012


I planted 2 pear trees this spring, a semi-dwarf Ayers and a semi-dwarf Kieffer. In the last few weeks the Kieffer has gotten fire blight repeatedly and I've cut it out to where the tree is now half it original height. The Ayers is doing great with no signs of fire blight.

My question is...could the fire blight in the Kieffer be stress related (it was almost twice the size of the Ayers), or might it be symptomatic of a tree that will be causing problems long into the future?

Should I just cut my losses and plant another or stick it out?

Thanks for all replies.


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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX


FB is worse on a rapidly growing tree not a stressed tree. I'd get rid of it if you are sure it's FB. I won't get another Kieffer. No reason to think another would do any better. I'd be looking for another more resistant variety.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2012 at 9:22PM
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I lost my first tree to fireblight last year, a 'Comice.' I tried cutting the FB out at at least a couple stages, but it kept spreading anyway and quickly took down the whole tree. I think the fireblight might have gotten started on my 'Kieffer.' Fireblight has really only affected the blossom clusters on the Kieffer without seeming to really threaten the whole tree. This year I had a little fireblight on one of my Asian pears, too, the 'Korean Giant.' (I still haven't seen any signs of fireblight on the other two varieties I planted with my first round of pears in '07, the Asian 'Shinko' and the European 'Moonglow'.) I'm wondering now if my 'Kieffer,' even though it looks like it's going to survive just fine and mostly produce fine, too, isn't a threat to the rest of my pear orchard.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2012 at 9:43PM
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That nurseries continue to grow and sell Keiffer and other seriously inferior pear trees to well-intentioned, but naive customers...... is hard to accept.Like selling spoiled eggs that you know are unaware egg buyers. 'Crooked' comes in all flavors.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2012 at 10:18PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)


Are you sure you weren't sold a mislabeled tree?

Kieffer is supposed to be very resistant to FB. My understanding is that used to be widely planted in the South because of it's excellent blight resistance.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2012 at 10:04AM
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While "Kieffer" can get FB, it's hard to imagine finding a pear that is more resistant to it. "Ledbetter" perhaps.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2012 at 11:09AM
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shazaam(NC 7B)

It's interesting to learn that Keiffer is one of the more resistant varieties to FB, especially since I suspect that the Kieffer graft on a multi-graft tree that I bought last year is suffering from FB -- several inches of the tip, including flowers and leaves, has shriveled and blackened. The Bartlett and Moonglow grafts on the same tree show no signs of infection, nor do my single graft Bartlett or Moonglow trees. I've had no incidence of FB in previous years, so, without doing any investigating/research, I was inclined to believe that Kieffer is, in fact, more susceptible. I'm glad this thread caught my eye...

    Bookmark   April 16, 2012 at 1:15PM
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Just as some kids in a 5 child family can be more or less disease resistant than the other kids in the family, I suppose that "variability varies" in plants as well. Some Keiffers have been the tougher family members and some the weaker. Multitudes of plastic tags on Keiffer trees at retail outlets declare the frequently false statement of comfort that the tree is fireblight resistant. As a former president stated to those who learned of his bad behavior, "Are you going to believe me, or your lying eyes?" I bet that a photo of a Keiffer branch with both FB on it and the original plastic tag boasting of it's FB resistance...would be instructional.Since there are many Keiffer trees that have not proven to be FB resistant, the tags are untrue. Seedling fruit trees can have fruit with differing fruit qualities, and I suppose that 'seedling' fireblight bacterium can be different from their kinfolk also. Some may be 'Leroy Brown' bad....and possibly coming to a pear tree near you.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2012 at 3:01PM
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On a correctly labeled "Kieffer" plant it should just be the rare process of bud mutation that would alter FB innate resistance. I suppose different rootstocks conceivably can affect the FB incidence by promoting more of the more-susceptible growth flushes but have never seen this mentioned.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2012 at 5:57PM
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Fireblight resistant does not mean it's totally immune to fireblight.
While, in my experience, Keiffer is one of the most fireblight-resistant pear varieties, it's certainly not immune.
But, I tend to classify it as 'fireblight tolerant' - I can't begin to count the number of big, old Keiffer pears I've seen scattered across the countryside, most growing at old home/farmsteads, with numerous blackened shepherd's crooks throughout the canopy - but they 'take a licking and keep on ticking' - continuing to produce heavy crops of those good ol' firm, gritty, tasty fruits.
Can FB kill a young Keiffer? Probably. But once they get some size on 'em, they just seem to shrug off the loss of a few branches and roll on along.
There may be better pears, but it's DEPENDABLE.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2012 at 7:43PM
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I've had a similiar experience with a 2 year old Moonglow and a 2 year old Harrow Delight that bloomed for the first time this spring. I was excited at the prospect of getting pears from my 2 year old trees and then fireblight hit every flower on both trees. I've slowly been hacking away both trees trying to stay ahead of the fireblight traveling down the tree.

I planted these two varieties thinking fireblight wouldn't be an issue, now I'm wondering if they will be worth the trouble. I didn't spray anything and think I will give them another year, but use streptomycin next spring.

Anyone have experience using streptomycin?

    Bookmark   April 16, 2012 at 8:59PM
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I'm no pear expert but thought I'd offer an anecdotal story about Keiffer. When I was young, I'd visit my granparent's farm in southern PA. Without getting too nostalgic, it was one of the greatest places on earth. One of the things that I remember about the farm were the four tall pear trees that always seemed to have a crop of beautiful, delicious fruit (and I wasn't really a pear fan). My uncle now has the farm and those pear trees are still tall and strong, even if it is 40 years later (and to a child's eyes, they looked ancient 40 years ago, though I'm sure they weren't). I asked my uncle what variety they were and he said they were Keiffer and that they still produced nice, large, clean pears. Oh, and for what it's worth, I never noticed fireblight on those pear trees ever.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 6:00AM
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Growing up in the Deep South, Keiffer - and a few other Euro X sand pear selections were the mainstay - most of the pure Europeans, like Bartlett, didn't stand a chance of long-term surivival. Agreed, they're not one of those soft, 'butter/dessert'-type pears and some denigrate them as not being fit for human consumption, but having grown up eating Keiffer, Pineapple, and Orient, they are, to my palate, what a pear is 'supposed to taste like' - crisp, flavorful, and yes, somewhat gritty - not some soft, mushy, cloying thing.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 12:00PM
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bobbo_w(8a Garland, TX)

Thanks for the responses....

So far, the FB hasn't returned, but I'm keeping a close watch. If it does, I'll take the recommendations of many and try another tree...maybe another Kieffer, but definately from a different nursery and supplier.


    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 1:50PM
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Keiffer on callery rootstock seems fb proof here, and texas a&m recommends callery rootstock. I'm not sure what the effect of the semi dwarf rootstock wod be, but some rootstocks aren't recommended in Texas due to fb problems

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 5:25PM
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