Apple tree disease
We have half a dozen heirloom trees about 10 years old from Big Horse Creek Farm. We have been getting more apples, but they always had dark spots. This year we have had very few apples, and leaves are dying. Can you identify the problem from the pictures, and suggest a strategy for saving these trees?
Ashe County North Carolina
Yes it has been an all around bad year for apples, you are lucky to have any fruit at all. Most of the fruit got hit by a late freeze. It has been a bad year for foliar diseases. It looks like you have Apple Scab, It starts on the leaves but also can affect the fruit. So at this point there is not much you can do to change the course, so you need to be looking towards preventing it next year. Start by removing or at minimum mowing the leaves under the trees, these hold the spores to start the disease cycle next year, although they can also hang out on the stems, but you will be reducing the disease by getting rid of the leaves. Then next year start looking at making sure you prune in spring to create more light penetration into the canopy and better air circulation. Most people either don't want to put the effort into fungicides, or don't want to use them, but this would be the next level of control in an integrated disease management system. Spring is especially important for fungicide as this is when the infection period begins. Then the trees need to be sprayed every 7-14 days through the season.
Here is some of the apple disease information that NC State has to offer https://apples.ces.ncsu.edu/apple-disease-factsheets/