Bees aid early detection of fireblight in orchards

The bees leave fireblight bacteria in the tube.
Bees from the orchard leave any fireblight bacteria in the tube through which they enter their hive © Rudolf Moosbeckhofer, AGES

Fireblight is a bacterial disease caused by the species Erwinia amylovora that affects fruit trees including apple and pear. It also affects other members of the rose family, including roses, crabapples and hawthorn. The disease can quickly spread through a plant, killing it within a few months, and can devastate entire orchards within a season. Fireblight is difficult to control; there are no chemicals that are effective once the disease has taken hold, and the spread can mainly only be slowed by pruning infected branches. Early detection of fireblight is therefore essential. Researchers at the Vienna University of Technology have devised a method to detect the disease, not on the fruit trees but on the bees that pollinate them. Continue reading

Looking to the past for disease resistance

Fireblight on apples
Fireblight on apples

Traditionally, farmers have bred their crops so that, in several generations, they have a variety that has a high yield or a particular taste or texture. These days, many farmers don’t breed their own crops but buy varieties that have been specially developed to perform well. However, it turns out that sometimes it is best to rediscover old varieties that naturally already have desirable traits.

Researchers at the Swiss research centre, Agroscope, were commissioned by the Fructus Association to look at the properties of apple varieties that are no longer widely grown. This is part of the NAP-PGREL project, which aims to record the properties of approximately 300 fruit varieties a year and make this information available to fruit growers. Continue reading