Wild Apple Trees Dying From Bottom Up

Asked September 29, 2020, 7:52 AM EDT

We have dozens of "wild" apple trees growing on our land. The land was settled just after the civil war and we presume many of the apple trees we've been fencing and pruning over the last 60 years are progeny of the early orchards. Four to five years ago, the lower branches started turning brown in early summer, leaves falling off, apple production way down. This has spread to nearly all trees, young and old, some turning brown and losing leaves all the way to the crown. I've read of Rapid Apple Decline, but that is usually discussed in the context of grafted trees. Our's have been extremely durable, naturally selected producers...until now. Any insight on the cause or solution will be greatly valued.

Sullivan County Pennsylvania

1 Response

Hi:

Without seeing foliage samples, I can only speculate. My thought is that it is a foliar disease or combination of a few. The most common one that causes early defoliation is apple scab. As years pass, it can defoliate and kill a tree. There are other ones that can impact the leaves - one of the rust diseases (cedar/hawthorn rust is common), fire blight (which will also kill branches) and others.