what happened to my apple trees?

Asked September 30, 2019, 4:54 PM EDT

Hi. I planted a Honeycrisp and a Pink Lady apple tree 3 years ago. The first year no apples. The second year about 25 of the most delicious and healthy apples I've ever seen. This year the trees don't look good and they had just a few apples. Is something eating them. Is there pruning I can do to encourage better health and when should I do it? Is there anything I can do to have better luck next year??
Thank you for your help!!

Mason County Washington

1 Response

Hi--I consulted with Jenny Glass, our WSU Plant Pathologist, about your problem. You can take what she says to the bank! :-)

"Apples are biennial bearers- so this might be the off year. Trees are pretty young- so probably not going to be that productive. At this stage of the life of the tree, I personally wouldn’t worry about fruit load—but I don’t have as much practical tree fruit growing experience as do people in tree fruit societies etc. for example https://wcfs.org/membership/south-sound-fruit-society-ssfs/

Can’t tell much from the photos but I agree leafhoppers and the usual foliar pests such as some skeletonizing feeding damage are present but this should be aesthetic damage but not serious to overall plant health.

Apples around here can get certain rust diseases- for example Pacific Coast pear rust- but not very common. Pear trellis rust shouldn’t impact apple.

To me the look of the leaves and stoutness of the stems –also the buds on the upper picture- suggest that growing was fine in spring- so not really worried about more serious issues such as root rot etc.

The wilt and necrosis of the leaves suggest water stress so I would query about watering practices—the tree root zone is still in the establishment stage and lots of people backed off on watering this summer as it wasn’t so hot and we had some rain—but we didn’t really get much of the soil drenching events plants need until September- and so I have been receiving samples that appear to be associated with environmental stress such as drought."

I hope this helps!